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Dogs Should NOT Wear Masks to Protect Against COVID-19


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Q: “My state just made it mandatory to wear a mask. I saw where I can get a mask for dogs online, should I do that? I also heard about the dog in North Carolina that tested positive (for COVID-19), and don’t want my dog to get sick. And I have a Pug as well. Are Pugs more susceptible?” B. J., Chicago, IL

A: No, no, no! Do not purchase a mask for your Pug!  Dog are not going to get the SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Corona virus-2 (CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 by walking down the street or sniffing. In fact, dogs really don’t get SARS CoV-2 period because it’s a human illness; dogs and also cats have their own corona viruses which we don’t get.  There is no reason for dogs to be forced to wear a mask, which is likely also uncomfortable.

Having said that, it’s true a handful of companion animals have tested positive for COVID-19. You can count confirmed positives on one hand, two cats (at two different homes) in New York state, a cat in Hong Kong and perhaps a cat in Belgium and a cat in France. As of May 1, the number of confirmed  human cases passed 3.21 million (all experts agree that number is likely far higher). Obviously, transmission to companion animals is not common. In each instance the viral level in the animals was low, and experts suggest that human with prolonged contact (not incidental like walking down the street) somehow transmitted some virus.

Three human members of the McClean family, Sam and Heather McClean and their son Ben were diagnosed with COVID-19. The couple’s daughter Sydney never showed any symptoms and has not tested positive. But Winston the Pug reportedly began to cough and tested positive by Duke University. The McClean family has another dog, a cat, and a lizard. That dog and cat tested negative, it’s unknown regarding the lizard.

The family was participating in a Duke University study about Covid-19 aimed at trying to find potential treatments and vaccines. As part of the study, members of the family undergo weekly nasal swabs and give blood samples. The family or Duke University (or both) went to the media (which jumped on the story) without confirmation from the North Carolina State Veterinary Lab, the Centers for Disease Control, the United States Department of Agriculture or American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). While there’s no reason to doubt Duke researchers, consider that the Pug merely licked something that a member of the household touched (given the way the test was administered).

Also, since so few dogs have shown to be positive for COVID-19  – there’s absolutely no indication that predisposition breed matters. Here’s another reason why a Pug should never wear a mask. Pugs are brachycephalic, which means they have shortened airways which to breath. French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Brussels Griffon, Pekingese and others are susceptible to various difficulties due to their pushed in noses and shortened airways, which include even taking a long walk in hot weather. While wearing a mask is not suggested for any dog, definitely it’s an extremely bad idea if not downright dangerous for brachycephalic breeds – especially if the weather is hot.

Out of an abundance of caution, the AVMA suggests, if you live with a pet dog, cat or ferret and someone in your home is positive for COVID-19, attempt that the positive individual social distances from any pets. If not too stressful for the pet (and some dogs may love the idea), consider a vacation to a healthy friend or relative.

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