Coronavirus infects North Carolina pug, possibly first dog in US to contract novel virus: report

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A pug in North Carolina that reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus is possibly the first dog in the U.S. to contract the illness.

Winston, a pug in Chapel Hill, N.C., was positive for COVID-19 after being tested as part of a Duke University study, according to local news station WRAL-TV. The dog was likely exposed to the virus from three of its owners – a mother, father, and son – who all tested positive for the novel virus. Another child, a daughter, did not test positive.

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“Pugs are a little unusual in that they cough and sneeze in a very strange way. So it almost seems like he was gagging, and there was one day when he didn’t want to eat his breakfast, and if you know pugs you know they love to eat, so that seemed very unusual,” mom Heather McLean, one of Winston’s owners who tested positive, told the news station.

In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for Duke Health said the canine is believed to be the first U.S. dog to test positive for the illness, at least on record.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 was detected in the pet dog of a family who is participating in the Molecular and Epidemiological Study of Suspected Infection (MESSI) research study at Duke. To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which the virus has been detected in a dog. Little additional information is known at this time as we work to learn more about the exposure," the spokesperson said.

Interestingly, the family’s other dog and two cats did not test positive.

Winston is apparently on the mend and was only sick “for a few days,” as per the outlet.

The CDC maintains that there is currently “no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The CDC maintains that there is currently “no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.” (iStock)

“[Winston] licks all of our dinner plates and sleeps in my mom’s bed, and we’re the ones who put our faces into his face. So, it makes sense that he got [the coronavirus],” said McLean's son, Ben.

The news comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week that social distancing guidelines should also apply to pets until more is known about the virus’s impact on animals.

Pet owners are advised to not let their furry friends interact with people or other animals outside the household, and owners should walk dogs on a leash at least six feet from other people and animals. Cats should also be kept indoors when possible, the federal agency said.

For those infected with the virus, or suspected to have it, the agency recommended having another member of the household take care of your pet. If that's not possible, it advised pet owners to wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after interacting with the animal.

There have been other reports of dogs testing positive for the virus, such as a German shepherd in Hong Kong. Two pet cats in New York also recently tested positive.

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However, the CDC maintains that there is currently “no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Fox News's David Aaro contributed to this report.