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Dog with ice pack and thermometer laying in bed
Although it appears that some dogs can catch COVID, you don’t have to worry! (Shutterstock)

Curious Kids: Can dogs catch COVID-19?

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. Have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Send it to CuriousKidsCanada@theconversation.com.

Can Tulip (our dog) catch COVID-19? — Tiju, 7, Toronto

Just as humans can come into contact with germs and not always get sick, so can dogs. Even if dogs do get infected, COVID-19 affects them differently than humans because dogs don’t seem to get very sick. So, Tiju, you really don’t have to worry about Tulip catching COVID-19.

dog sitting looking up at camera with small tooth poking out
Tiju’s dog Tulip. Tiju

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Like many viruses, it is a sort of “shape shifter” because it can change into multiple types, called variants. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified about five variants which cause COVID-19. And while some dogs and cats did test positive for one type, they had almost no symptoms.

What makes this interesting is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus actually came from animals in the first place! Scientists think it originally came from bats.

This virus is “zoonotic,” meaning it can spread from animals to humans. Rabies, for instance, is a well-known zoonotic disease. If a person is bitten by an animal with rabies, the person can get rabies.

Dogs don’t seem to get sick from COVID-19 because of how the virus gets into their system.

Imagine a lock and key. Humans and animals have “ACE receptors,” which are like locks in their bodies, and the viruses are like keys. If the virus can get into the ACE receptor, click!

Luckily, the ACE receptors in dogs and humans are very different, and this virus can only get into the humans. But guess which other animal has a similar ACE receptors to humans? Yep … Bats!

COVID-19 in wild animals

What about other wild animals?

Well, there are some cases of humans giving the virus to zoo animals. Big cats in New York zoos were infected by an employee with COVID-19, as were gorillas at the San Diego Zoo. In fact, the gorillas had similar symptoms to humans. But it might be good news that they are one of our closest relatives because there is a new vaccine for them, just like we have.

As for animals that are actually living in the wild, there is not yet enough science to understand how the coronavirus is impacting them. In fact, some researchers are investigating this right now.


Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsCanada@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live. And since curiosity has no age limit — adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.


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