Are animals, including dogs, sensitive to coronavirus infections?

The answer is yes.

Coronaviruses can infect dogs, cats, pigs, horses, chickens, mice, and rats, as well as other animals.

Coronaviruses are a large group of RNA viruses that can infect many animal species. Their replication mechanism involves recombination and mutation events that sometimes allow cross-species transmission. The ongoing change of the host's environment can favor cross-species transmission, which can turn into a threat to other species and the human population.

In animals, coronavirus infections are usually enzootic. Meaning the virus can be present in an animal population for a long time. However, only a small number of animals are affected at any one time. Animals are the primary source of the reservoir for recombination and transmission of coronaviruses. The 2020 SARS-CoV-2 pandemic promoted a global interest in animal coronaviruses, both in wild and domestic animals.

Therefore it is essential to understand the clinical outcome of coronavirus infections in different animals. Also, knowing their molecular characteristics helps to prevent new coronavirus diseases. Hence, coronavirus infections in animals may need to be routinely studied in veterinary medicine to prevent animal disease and promote public health.

Animal coronaviruses

The Coronaviridae or coronavirus family members are enveloped, generally spherical, with diameters of between 120 and 160 nm. The trimeric S or spike envelope protein appears in an electron microscope as characteristic projections giving the virus a crown-like appearance.

Models of the SARS-CoV-2 structure

Canine coronavirus (CCoV) is a member of the family Coronaviridae. CCoV is an enveloped, single-stranded, positive-sense RNA virus. CCoV causes mild to severe enteritis, inflammation of the intestine in pups. In dog pups, CCoV infection can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and, occasionally, death. CCoV shedding in feces occurs for 6 to 9 days after infection. PCR has detected long-term viral shedding in CCoV infected pups. 

CCoV belongs to the group I coronaviruses. This goup also includes the transmissible gastroenteritis virus of swine (TGEV), the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV), the porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCoV), the feline coronaviruses (FCoVs) and the human coronavirus 229E (HCoV 229E).

Group I coronaviruses

TGEV              transmissible gastroenteritis virus of swine

PEDV              porcine respiratory coronavirus

FCoVs             feline coronaviruses

HCoV 229E    the human coronavirus 229E

Quantitative PCR

Quantitative fluorogenic reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays allows the detection and quantitation of animal coronaviruses in the feces of infected animals. Decaro et al., in 2004, developed a primer and probe set useful for quantitative PCR (qPCR). 

The position and sequence of the primers and probe for TaqMan RT-PCR amplification are reported in Table1. 

Table 1:  Specific oligonucleotides used in CCoV fluorogenic assay and conventional RT-PCR for canine, feline and porcine CoVs.


Sequence 5′→3′



Amplicon size



  In canine, feline and porcine CoVs!





409 bp









99 bp











  aOligonucleotide position is referred to the sequence of CCoV strain Insavc-1 (accession no.: D13096).  bConventional RT-PCR (Pratelli et al., 1999).  cFluorogenic assay. dFAM, 6-carboxyfluorescein. eTAMRA, 6-carboxytetramethylrhodamine.


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