A family dog that made headlines last month as the first dog in the United States to test positive for coronavirus has died.
Buddy, a seven-year-old German Shepherd from Staten Island, New York, first began showing signs of respiratory illness in mid-April.
On June 2, the US Department of Agriculture announced that a dog had tested positive for COVID-19.
Three cats had previously tested positive for the virus. Fewer than 25 pets in total have contracted the virus in the US.
Veterinary records show Buddy likely had cancer, but questions remain about the extent to which coronavirus contributed to his death.
“You tell people that your dog was positive, and they look at you (as if you have) ten heads,” Allison Mahoney told National Geographic.
“(Buddy) was the love of our lives. He brought joy to everybody. I can’t wrap my head around it.”
He was likely infected by Robert Mahoney, who had been suffering with the virus for three weeks when Buddy started showing symptoms.
Buddy, who the owners say had never been sick before, developed a thick mucus in his nose and started breathing heavily.
Mr Mahoney told National Geographic that at first, no one except him believed Buddy might have the virus.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I thought (Buddy) was positive (too),” he told the publication.
The owners had to take Buddy to three different vets before one would test him for COVID-19, a month after he fell ill.
“They came greeting me looking like space martians with hazmat suits,” Mr Mahoney said.
Despite subsequent negative tests indicating the virus was no longer present, the dog’s health continued to decline.
He began urinating uncontrollably, had blood in his urine, and eventually had trouble walking.
On the morning of July 11, Ms Mahoney found Buddy in the kitchen vomiting clotted blood.
“It looked like it was his insides coming out. He had it all over. It was coming from his nose and mouth,” she said.
“We knew there was nothing that could be done for him from there. What are you going to do for a dog with this? But he had the will to live. He didn’t want to go.”
They rushed him to the vet, but made the decision to euthanise him.
Experts say Buddy’s case shows it’s still unclear whether the underlying condition made him more susceptible to catching the virus.
“For Buddy the dog, the exact cause of death has not been determined, and medical records indicate he likely also had lymphoma,” said Pankaj KC from World Animal Protection.
Mr Pankaj said cases of dogs contracting the virus remained isolated, and that there was no evidence they could spread the disease to humans.
“People shouldn’t panic about their pets’ welfare as we still do not know if domestic animals can contract coronavirus in the same way,” he said.
But he added that pet owners with COVID-19 should avoid contact with their pet where possible and have another member of the household care for them.
“If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a face mask,” he said.