Coronavirus (COVID-19), a new pneumonia-causing infection, was declared a global health emergency in December 2019. It started in Wuhan, China and cases have been reported in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United States and twenty other countries. We know that it affects humans, but many pet parents are wondering if their animals are at risk.
The short answer is: no. The World Health Organization stated that, "At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus." No case of coronavirus in pets have been reported. (Update April 9, 2020: In China, a dog reportedly tested positive on March 1 for the COVID-19 virus following close exposure to its owners who were infected. A follow-up report on March 9 said, "The dog was not showing any clinical signs of the disease." There is still no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. On April 6, a tiger in the Bronx zoo became the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S. Check updates on the OIE's website.)
This hasn't stopped dog owners from buying face masks. Zhou Tianxiao, a Chinese company producing masks, said that they're selling ten times more masks than usual. The masks were originally intended to help dogs breathe in high pollution areas, but they're being used to prevent interactions with diseased surfaces or infected people.
A Texas-based company called Good Air Team also sells a "K9 Mask." The owner told USA Today that they've seen a 300% increase in sales causing them to run out of inventory. It's big business for dog masks, but medical professionals say that they might give comfort to owners but they don't actually protect against coronavirus.
There is, however, a way that coronavirus is affecting pets and it has nothing to do with getting sick. Because the city of Wuhan was put under quarantine on January 23, many people who were travelling during the Lunar New Year festivities haven't been able to return home. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 pets are stuck in homes without their owners and risk starvation.
Thankfully, a local animal-rights activist named Lao Mao has come to the rescue. He's connecting with pet parents over social media and doing their best save the abandoned dogs, cats and other animals. Other volunteers have joined him and they're breaking into houses all over Wuhan. "My phone never stops ringing these days. I barely sleep," he told The New York Times. Lao Mao and his volunteers are giving hope to Wuhan pet parents in this time of crisis.