Buddy, first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died

Three cats have previously tested positive in the U.S., but experts say the risk to pets remains low.

Published July 29, 2020 (Buddy died July 11, 2020)

BUDDY LIKED DOG stuff: running through the sprinklers, going on long car rides, swimming in the lake. He cuddled the Mahoneys—his owners and family—at the end of tough days. He humored them when they dressed him up as a bunny for Halloween. He was a protective big brother to 10-month-old Duke, the family’s other German shepherd. He loved everyone. He lived up to his name.

The Mahoney Family

In mid-April, right before his seventh birthday, Buddy began struggling to breathe.

Six weeks later, he became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On July 11, Buddy died.

Medical records provided by the Mahoneys and reviewed for National Geographic by two veterinarians who were not involved in his treatment indicate that Buddy likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, which would explain the symptoms he suffered just before his death.

Photos of Buddy and the Mahoneys’ daughter Julianna lay out on the family’s backyard table. “He was a 130-pound, German shepherd furry friend,” says Allison Mahoney. “A good little pumpkin. I just kind of wish we’d had him for longer.”

The Mahoneys didn’t learn that lymphoma was being considered as the probable cause of his symptoms until the day of his death, they say, when additional bloodwork results confirmed it. It’s unclear whether cancer made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, or if the virus made him ill, or if it was just a case of coincidental timing. Buddy’s family, like thousands of families grappling with the effects of the coronavirus around the world, is left with many questions and few answers.

Until now, Buddy’s identity, the details of his case, and his death were not public. A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in early June revealed his general location (Staten Island, New York), his breed (German shepherd), his likely source of transmission (a COVID-positive owner), and his status (expected to recover). Public records for the few other pets to have tested positive in the U.S. are similarly sparse.

he family says the most confusing part of it all was the fact that no one seemed interested in learning from Buddy’s death or studying what role COVID-19 played in it, considering how few cases had been confirmed in animals.

Buddy with 10 month old Duke, the little bro, who tested negative for COVID-19 when Buddy tested positive.

National Geographic also points out that Buddy’s death highlights the fact that the reporting of animal testing is not mandatory and is not widely shared, therefore there currently isn’t enough data to know if, say like humans, animals with pre-existing conditions are more likely to contract the virus.

The Mahoneys say they’re confident the team at Bay Street did their best for Buddy.

“I think they are learning as well. It’s all trial and error. And they tried to help us the best way they can,” Allison told National Geographic.

The Mahoneys chose to have Buddy cremated and they hope to pick up his ashes this week.

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