A Dartmouth College student and his family were surprised upon learning their pug, Winston, tested positive for coronavirus. The dog is believed to be the first in the country to become infected with the virus.
College sophomore, Ben McLean, traveled home to North Carolina for spring break where he found that his parents, both healthcare workers, believed they’d contracted COVID-19. After his parents were tested and confirmed positive, Ben woke up feeling “horrible” one morning in late March. He also tested positive.
“It’s all been sort of a crazy whirlwind,” Ben’s mother, Heather McLean said. “All our worlds are upside down because of this pandemic.”
Ben said. “It’s pretty scary when your whole family has it like that.” Luckily the McLeans recovered without needing to be hospitalized. They wanted to help and decided to take part in a study searching for antibodies in humans and animals.
They had no idea the virus had spread to their pet, but Winston, along with the family’s other pets, were prime subjects for the Duke University study testing to find how the novel coronavirus can spread from humans to pets in certain situations.
His owners said the dog was coughing, sneezing, and refused to eat before the oral swab tests administered to two of the family’s dogs and their cat, came back positive for Winston.
Thankfully, Winston made a full recovery in a matter of days. “One morning, he came down, ate all of his food and was running around, ready to go on his walk,” Ben’s father, Samuel McLean said. “I knew Winston was back.”
The McLeans don’t want Winston’s story to alarm people with pets. They hope their contribution to research about COVID-19 antibodies helps science however it can. Although he contracted the virus, Winston’s symptoms were not severe or life-threatening.
“We just want to say that we don’t think this story should be a cause of concern for people who have dogs. We don’t think dogs can give it to humans, and if humans can give it to dogs, the chance is very low that the dog gets sick and it’s even super low if not impossible that the dog would have any severe reaction to coronavirus.”
Dr. Monica Mansfield from Medway Animal Hospital confirms that the risk of spreading the coronavirus to your pet is indeed minimal.
“It’s just being studied right now and just being figured out right now,” Dr. Mansfield said. “We think it’s an exquisitely low risk of animals catching COVID from a human.”
However, until more is known about the virus, it is still best practice for sick people to isolate themselves from people and animals.
“If a human is ill with any respiratory signs or especially if they’re ill with Covid, they should just out of abundance of caution to be careful not to have their mouth near their animal’s face and their animal’s mouth just to be on the really safe side,” Dr. Mansfield said.
Dr. Mansfield says to use common sense. “Just good sanitary practices,” she said. “Just don’t kiss their face and hold them close to your mouth and nose.”
The CDC also advises that people not let pets interact with other people or dogs when in public.
The McClean family is all clear of the virus, and they all, including Winston, continue to practice social distancing to be safe.
Hey guys it’s me Winston! Just wanted to say that I am all better and fully recovered from COVID!
— Winston the COVID survivor pug (@CovidWinston) April 29, 2020
“Winston is all better. He’s completely fine. We just went on a walk today and he ran around in the park,” said Ben McLean. “We didn’t get near anybody, we’re still making sure he doesn’t come into contact, but that’s just precautionary. We’re sure he’s over it by now. We’re still social distancing just like anybody else.”