Coronavirus Fears Have People Buying Their Dogs Face Masks—But Can They Even Contract the Virus?
Cute? Yes. Helpful? Not so much.
The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the 2019 novel coronavirus (aka, 2019-nCoV) is now a global health emergency, understandably inciting even more panic among an already-worried population. But now, it appears that the worry isn't only regarding human health—pet owners are apparently worried for their dogs now, too.
According to the Daily Mail, dog owners in China are now rushing to buy face masks for their pets, in order to prevent coronavirus infections in them, as well. A tweet by Twitter user @camohanbn shows three separate dogs wearing the masks, claiming that owners are doing so to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. "Dogs are also a means of Spreading Virus," the user wrote.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Beijing-based dog mask seller Zhou Tianxio told the publication that he has gone from selling about 150 masks per month to 50 masks a day due to the outbreak. “Most [dogs] have started to wear [masks]. Because there is this virus, people pay more attention to their health and their pets' health,” Tianxiao said. “[The dog masks] might not be as professional as the medical masks made for humans, but they are functional.”
But it's not only in China: Good Air Team, a Texas-based company that produces the K9 Mask, has also experienced a spike in sales within the past three days. “We had a 300% sale increase in Amazon, which led us to run out of inventory,” owner Kirby Holmes told USA Today. And, despite the fact that the CDC has only confirmed six human cases of coronavirus in the United States, Holmes maintains that the majority of dog mask sales were shipped to domestic customers.
Can dogs become infected—and then spread—the coronavirus?
So, dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses—canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) and another type of enteric coronavirus that can cause diarrhea in dogs, according to the American Veterinary Association—but so far, officials don't believe that this specific coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is a threat to domesticated animals.
According to the World Health Organization, at this time there have been no reported cases of domestic animals contacting the coronavirus, nor is there any evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can even be infected with the coronavirus.
Still, a representative of China’s National Health Commission cautioned pet owners to be vigilant about their own health and the health of their pets: "If pets go out and have contact with an infected person, they have the chance to get infected. By then, pets need to be isolated. In addition to people, we should be careful with other mammals especially pets," said epidemiologist Li Lanjuan, according to China Daily.
But as far as a mask goes—for both humans and dogs, to be honest—they're likely not that helpful when it comes to the new coronavirus. “Based on the current available information, we can’t say surgical masks help prevent contracting coronavirus,”Andres Romero, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, previously told Health. That's in large part because experts still don't know how exactly coronavirus is transmitted—whether it's mainly through respiratory droplets, like typical coronaviruses, or also through touching common surfaces, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—though it was recently discovered it can pass between humans.
The bottom line: Dogs, much like humans, don't necessarily need face masks at this time to protect themselves against the new coronavirus—but if you're still worried (and have an extra $50 or so to spend), speak to your veterinarian before going all in on one.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter