Ebola Virus & Dogs: Are they at risk and can they transmit it to humans?


The increase of Ebola cases here in the United States has raised much concern about dog’s role in Ebola virus transmission and the risks dogs may pose to humans.  Dr. Anna Coffin will cover the basics of Ebola virus and what little information is known about dogs and the Ebola virus.

People infected with the Ebola virus usually show fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea, followed by bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain.  There is currently no cure for this virus, only supportive care such as fluid therapy for dehydration.  Unfortunately, 90 percent of people who test positive for Ebola virus will die.  Recovery can occur but it is very rare.  Here are some Facts about Ebola Virus:

  • Ebola virus is NOT spread through:  casual contact, air, water, food grown or legally purchased in the United States.
  • How do you get Ebola Virus:  direct contact with body fluids (blood, vomit, urine, feces, sweat, spit) from a person infected with the virus, objects, such as needles and medical equipment, contaminate with the virus, direct contact with infected animals (fruit bat or primates)
  • Ebola can only be spread after symptoms begin.  Symptoms can appear from 2-21 days after exposure.  After 21 days, if an exposed person does not develop symptoms, they will not become sick with Ebola.

Most of the information we know about Ebola virus in dogs comes from a large outbreak in Gabon Africa in 2001 where over 400 dogs became exposed to the virus.  This is what we know:

  • 27% of these healthy dogs had serum antibodies against the virus – which means they did contract the Ebola virus.
  • None of the dogs had detectable Ebola virus circulating in their blood stream.
  • There is no evidence that they developed symptoms of the disease.
  • There is no evidence that an infected dog can shed or transmit the Ebola virus.[Tweet “There is no evidence that an infected dog can shed or transmit the Ebola virus.”]

In the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said there are “no reports of pets becoming sick” or “playing a role in transmission of Ebola to humans”.

Because of the lack of information about Ebola virus in dogs, concerns about dogs and Ebola virus cannot be dismissed.  As is common with emerging diseases, there are many gaps in our knowledge – and these gaps can create fear.  The decision to euthanize the dog in Spain that was owned by a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola was made out of hysteria and caused outrage around the world.  Reasonable recommendations must be developed in the event that more pet dogs become exposed to Ebola.

Dr. Rod Hall the Oklahoma State Veterinarian has stated:   “In the event a person in Oklahoma becomes infected with Ebola and that person has a pet,  we will assess the degree of exposure and likely quarantine the pet for 21 days.  The quarantine would be under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, the pet would be monitored during the quarantine, and it would be tested for the virus before being released from the quarantine.  We have identified potential quarantine sites.  We have no plans to euthanize pets that are exposed to the virus.”

It is important to understand everything is being done to monitor populations of people and all animals for unusual signs.  If your pet is sick or shows any symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea you should see your veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Dr. Anna was born and raised in Guthrie, Oklahoma. As a teenager, Dr. Anna found her beloved pet dead on the side of the road left to die without any help. That was the moment she decided to become a vet and vowed to help other people and their pets. After a few years of practicing in New Hampshire, Dr. Anna became homesick and decided to return to Guthrie to be with her parents and five other siblings. Family and friends are a major part of our lives which is why we treat our clients at Guthrie Pet Hospital as family.  Dr. Anna and her husband do not have children but are very proud pet parents and therefore, treat every four legged friend as part of the family.

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