A 17-year-old Pomeranian that became the first dog in the world to be found with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has reportedly passed away.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced that the dog passed away on Monday, according to South China Morning Post
“The department learned from the dog’s owner that it had passed away on March 16. The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death,” the AFCD said in a statement.
Its 60-year-old owner was confirmed to have the virus and hospitalized on Feb. 25, while the dog was put into quarantine on Feb. 26. Although the dog’s owner returned home on March 8 free from the virus, the dog did not return until last Saturday.
Scientists ran five tests on the dog from nasal and oral samples, which all returned “weak positive.” The dog was only then allowed to return home after two of its tests came back negative.
On March 3, scientists performed serology tests that look for antibodies in the blood, which came back with negative results on March 12. This means no antibodies specific to the virus were found in the dog’s system.
The AFCD said that at the time, serological test results did not always mean that the dog had not been infected with the virus.
“It is known in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop,” the statement said.
The department also stated that the make-up of the virus was similar to that of the virus in humans.
“The [gene] sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog,” AFCD said.
Three other pets — an exotic shorthair cat, a Shiba Inu and a mongrel — have also been placed at the animal keeping facilities located at the Hong Kong Port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.