More than a dozen dogs in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, indicating they were once exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes a COVID-19 infection.
Some 23 dogs tested as part of a study by the University of Washington were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, marking the first instance among pets in the state, officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said in a news release.
The researchers began their work on the COVID-19 and Pets Study early last year, shortly after the pandemic hit the state. The results of the study, which were verified by the USDA National Veterinary Service Laboratory (NVSL), bolster existing evidence that COVID-19-infected humans can indeed pass the virus to their furry companions, though researchers have said that animals do not play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans.
"These results indicate that COVID-infected humans are able to transmit the virus to animals living in the same household. While we don’t have evidence that this poses a risk to other humans, we are recommending that COVID-infected persons take steps to reduce the risk of infecting their pets," said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, Director of the UW Center for One Health Research and Principal Investigator for the COVID and Pets Study, in a statement. "We are continuing this study as the human vaccine rollout takes place, and will be seeing whether any change in household transmission occurs."
There have been other reports of canines testing positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, said officials. Over the summer, for instance, a German shepherd was determined to be the first official dog in the U.S. to test positive for COVID-19.
Most recently, the Georgia Aquarium announced on Sunday that its Asian small-clawed otters tested positive for COVID-19.
Given the growing amount of evidence that humans can infect pets with the novel virus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June released a video to help infected owners learn how to keep their furry friends safe from COVID-19.