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Northern Territory Senator Sam McMahon says a Darwin dog has tested positive for Covid, in what would be the first case of the virus in a canine in Australia.
McMahon, who is a qualified vet, said the dog tested positive on a rapid antigen test.
Despite concerns about the reliability of RAT results for animals, McMahon said she was satisfied with the accuracy.
“The owner was diagnosed with Covid, and the dog started having some symptoms, which were mainly a little bit of lethargy, a cough and just wasn’t quite herself.
“The owner told me they’d done a RAT test and it had come back positive, so I made inquiries as to how they’d done the test and was satisfied that had all been done correctly.
“This is highly likely to be the first reported case in Australia,” McMahon said.
The NT senator said the dog spends much of her time with her owner, and that she was sick for four days before making a full recovery.
McMahon suspected there were unreported cases of Covid in dogs.
“It’s unusual and uncommon, but there have been quite a lot of cases reported overseas of pets catching Covid from the owners,” she said.
“It is quite possible that there have been other cases where you know, the dog or cat has coughed a couple of times for a couple of days and people haven’t really attributed that to Covid and haven’t tested for it.”
But RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer, Dr Sarah Zito, does not advise pet owners use RATs on their animals.
“Due to the lack of evidence on the accuracy, reliability or safety of using RAT tests designed for use in people to test animals for Sars-CoV-2, the use of these tests is not advised at this time.”
Zito told the Guardian testing for Covid in pets should be undertaken “on the advice of human and animal health authorities” and that confirmatory testing should be performed in the event of a positive result.
She said it would be rare for a dog to become seriously ill with the virus, but advised people to avoid their pets if they do test positive.
“The current evidence suggests that even if they do get infected with Sars-CoV-2, most dogs infected have no symptoms or just mild disease.
“It may be possible for them to become seriously ill, but this seems to be rare if it does occur.
“If you are infected with Sars-CoV-2, eliminate or limit contact with animals as well as other people, including your companion animals.
“Someone else should care for any animals, including companion animals.”
The RSPCA say there is no vaccine for dogs because the disease only mildly affects them.
Zito added there was no evidence dogs or other animals could transmit the virus, only that humans can infect their pets.
“The current evidence indicates that dogs shed minimal amounts of the virus if they are infected, and they are thought to pose a very low risk of infection to other animals.”