Published: 14:44, 03 August 2020
| Updated: 17:16, 03 August 2020
by Harrison Moore
A pet dog could be the first in Britain to have contracted coronavirus after it chewed its owner's discarded tissues.
Mandy Hayes had all the symptoms of Covid-19 and was laid up in bed for weeks with a flaming sore throat, dry hacking cough and no sense of smell.
The 60-year-old grandmother caught her Alaskan malamute Mushka chewing on a used tissue left on her bedside table.
But she was assured by online advice the disease could not be passed from humans to pets.
Two weeks later though, 10-year-old Mushka developed the exact same symptoms as his owner – a continuous, dry 'Covid' cough and extreme breathlessness.
Terrified Mandy, from Gravesend, asked a friend to take her beloved dog to the vets, who said the symptoms were kennel cough and then diagnosed Mushka with lung worm, she said.
But the pooch's health suddenly declined and he was rushed in for a CT scan which revealed excess fluid in his lungs – another classic sign of advanced coronavirus.
Retired store manager Mandy rejected advice to put Mushka down and instead pressured vets into giving him steroids, a treatment proven to reduce deaths in Covid-19 human patients.
And after six weeks of illness, both Mandy and Mushka are finally on the mend.
Mandy hasn't been able to get a test for her dog but is even more convinced he had the disease after it emerged this week a pet cat has tested positive in the UK.
She said: "I know he had it. We nearly lost him.
"When the CT scan revealed lungs full of fluid I asked can he have caught it from me, but the vet said 'no'.
"At that time, the American Kennel Club had on their website that dogs, cats should be sent away to be looked after, if someone had the virus in household."
But she says the advice issued by the Kennel Club in Britain was there had been "no known cases" and is convinced Mushka was infected with the virus.
"This has made me very angry," she added. "I have video clips of him when he was suffering, showing him coughing, and very unwell.
"More pet owners need to be made aware of the fact that it is being proven cats and dogs can contract coronavirus from humans."
Mandy became ill in March but at that point, tests were not routinely available to members of the public who were not in hospital.
Mushka fell ill after he snatched one of her used tissues off the table. Mandy's husband Vernon, 55, tried to prise the tissue out his mouth, but it was too late.
But as Mandy started to feel better, she watched in horror as Mushka became ill.
She says her dog was constantly grinding his teeth and for two weeks his condition deteriorated.
Mandy, who has two children and six grandkids, added: "Throughout the whole pandemic this was waved off by experts as pet owners just being pedantic and overly worried about their pets.
"I know many families who went with the advice of veterinary experts and had their beloved pets put down when there were other options.
"In America pet owners were informed that the safest thing to do was to rehome their pets if they contracted the virus to prevent any chance of them getting ill.
"But we weren't informed of anything like that here in the UK. We were just told it was extremely unlikely and not to worry.
"I think pet owners should know the real reason why their cherished companions aren't here with them now, at a time when they are needed most.
"The government should accept that they were too slow in releasing this critical life saving information to the public."
A statement on the Kennel Club website said there is "no evidence that dogs health is impacted by Covid-19".
It added: "If your dog is unwell then it is very unlikely that Covid-19 is the cause of their illness, but it is still important that you contact your vet to find out what is causing their illness."