A dog from Chicago has become the first in Illinois to test positive for COVID-19, according to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine.
The animal had been experiencing respiratory symptoms since early January and recently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, according to a news release from the college.
The source of the infection appears to be someone who was caring for him over the New Year’s holiday while his owners were away, said Dr. Drew Sullivan, the animal's veterinarian and director of the Medical District Veterinary Clinic in Chicago.
The dog developed signs of respiratory illness approximately one week after exposure, according to the veterinarian.
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"Initially, I suspected common canine respiratory pathogens," he stated. "However, because the dog was not improving, I became suspicious of something else."
An initial test for COVID-19 was conducted by a research team at the College of Veterinary Medicine at UIUC, and the positive diagnosis was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
A total of 97 dogs have tested positive for COVID throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dashboard. Doctors say there is no evidence of COVID-19 infections passing from pets to people.
Sullivan said he has recently seen a number of canine patients with somewhat unusual respiratory signs that aren't consistent with classic kennel cough.
After talking to the animals' owners, he learned in about three-quarters of the suspected COVID-19 cases, the dogs' symptoms began around the same time someone in their household tested positive for coronavirus.
“At this time, it appears that it’s possible there have been more dogs infected with SARS-CoV-2 than previously suspected," he said. "Luckily, these infections rarely cause severe disease in dogs."
As for the dog from Chicago, Sullivan said he continues to have nasal congestion, but is doing well overall.