Buddy, a 7-year-old German shepherd from New York, who had the unlucky designation as the first dog in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, has died, National Geographic reports. Buddy developed breathing problems in mid-April after one of his owners contracted the disease. Buddy was tested and was found positive for COVID-19 in May.
While the USDA had revealed that a dog in New York had tested affirmative for the virus, this is the first time that his identity and details of the death have been released.
Buddy likely had lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system, which wasn't diagnosed until he had been put down. It's unclear if the coronavirus was the cause of Buddy's death or if the cancer played a role. But his owners, Robert and Allison Mahoney, say that after developing breathing problems in April, he steadily went downhill. He became lethargic, developed a thick mucus in his nose, and lost weight.
Initially, Buddy visited multiple veterinarians before he was finally checked for the virus. In early June, he was tested again and found to be negative for the disease, but his health continued to decline.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, I thought [Buddy] was positive," Robert Mahoney said.
"We had zero knowledge or experience with the scientific basis of COVID in dogs," he added. When talking with several vets, "there was a lot of silence on the phone. I don't think anybody knew."
He was euthanized earlier this month after he started vomiting clotted blood. The family explained that the diagnosis was confusing and difficult, given that there aren't many cases of other sick animals to look toward.
"You tell people that your dog was positive, and they look at you [as if you have] ten heads," Allison Mahoney said. "[Buddy] was the love of our lives….He brought joy to everybody. I can't wrap my head around it."
The New York City Department of Health asked to take the dog's body in order to do a necropsy, but before the request reached the vet who performed the euthanasia, the dog's body had been cremated.
The family's second dog, a 10-month-old named Duke, was negative, but antibodies were found in his blood.
Scientists still aren't sure how animals are impacted by the disease, and it isn't known if they play any role in the spread of the virus. So far, 12 dogs, 10 cats, at least one tiger and one lion have been found to have COVID-19.
Several dogs in China also were found to have coronavirus, and one died of causes unrelated to it.