Last month, a researcher at Duke University claimed that Winston, a pug, was the first dog in the U.S. to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus the causes COVID-19. Initially, Winston “wasn’t tested because they thought he was sick,” but as part of a research project at Duke University.

Given that two dogs in Hong Kong who also were reported to be positive had either negative confirmatory or mixed test results, a positive confirmation in Winston would have made him the first dog in the world to be confirmed positive. He was not.

Winston “was likely never infected with the virus, according to new findings from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory” (NVSL). The United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the NVSL, reports that it “was unable to verify infection in this dog. No virus was isolated, and there was no evidence of an immune response.”

When Duke researchers and his family first announced the positive test, I argued that there was reason for “healthy skepticism” about the result and that “none of the evidence suggests there is reason to worry about your dogs or yourself.”

Why?

  1. The two Hong Kong dogs had either negative or mixed confirmatory results.
  2. A study which tried to deliberately infect dogs with SARS-CoV-2 found that none of the dogs acquired it, despite being injected with a massive dose directly up their noses (over 30 times greater than would be found in nature)*. Ultimately, the study concluded that dogs are not susceptible to COVID-19.
  3. Dr. Jane Sykes, the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, noted that, “There are major diagnostic laboratories in the U.S. that have now tested more than 6,000 dogs and cats, from all over this country [and] from other impacted countries since the outbreak began and all of those animals have tested negative.”
  4. Idexx Laboratories had analyzed more than 5,000 samples “from pet cats and dogs in 17 countries that were submitted by veterinarians for respiratory-related tests. It found zero cases…” Another commercial laboratory in the United States also reported they had tested “thousands of specimens from dogs and cats for SARS-CoV-2 and had obtained no positive results. These specimens have come from the United States, South Korea, Canada, and Europe, including regions concurrently experiencing human COVID-19 cases.”
  5. If dogs could acquire it — and there is no confirmatory evidence that they can — they would almost certainly “dead end hosts” and as such, cannot pass it to other animals or to people. According to a Tufts University virologist, “The virus may be able to infect tissues or cells in a host, say, the respiratory tract, but they’re not able to complete the life cycle in terms of transmitting to a new host.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control continue to affirm that, “there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.”

Most news stations that reported on the initial positive test claim have not reported that his confirmatory tests came back negative. The World Health Organization cautioned about “an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” And the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab echoed that concern saying, “Lives depend on it.”

They do.

The Canine Review was the first to break this story.

(* It should go without saying that there are ethical issues inherent in any study that would deliberately attempt to inflict on sentient, non-human animals a disease so grave in terms of potential suffering and death that we have all collectively adopted extreme measures, including shutting down the economies of the world, to avoid contracting it ourselves.)

————-

Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.