Are dog owners at a higher risk of coming down with COVID-19?
A new study claims that might be true.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) and the Andalusian School of Public Health. It was done to analyze the main risk factors in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, during the national lockdown in Spain between March and May 2020.
Published in the journal Environmental Research, the study revealed that owning a dog was one of the biggest risk factors of contracting COVID-19 during the period studied.
According to the research, dog owners had a significantly higher chance of catching the virus. In fact, it put them at an increased risk of 78 percent, compared to the average person.
“These results point to living with dogs as a strong risk factor for COVID-19 infection,” researchers wrote.
At the same time, owning cats or other types of pets didn’t appear to increase a person’s risk of getting infected with the virus. So what does that mean?
It’s not necessarily the dogs themselves, but rather the owners and their habits surrounding pet ownership.
There is, of course, no conclusive research that proves dog-to-human transmission is possible if a dog becomes infected. Plus, dogs are far less likely to contract the virus than their feline counterparts. So why are dog owners at more of a risk?
Researchers suggest it has to do with taking pups for walks. Dogs can help spread the virus by touching contaminated surfaces in public, and then walking those germs throughout their owner’s home.
Even if your dog doesn’t touch a contaminated surface, it could still be risky. Taking dogs for walks or to other public spaces, such as dog parks, leads to spending more time around other people.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Christina Sanchez Gonzalez, said that dog owners should take extra care to practice good hygiene in relation to their pets.
“In the midst of a pandemic and in the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, preventative hygiene measures are the only salvation,” she said. “And these measures should also be applied to dogs, which, according to our study, appear to directly or indirectly increase the risk of contracting the virus.”
She also added that decisions to close areas such as playgrounds “didn’t make sense.”
At least, not when areas like dog parks remained open.