KITCHENER -- Maci, a three-year-old dog living in the Niagara Region, is the first canine in Canada to test positive for COVID-19.

Researchers at the University of Guelph confirmed the case on Monday.


"We just call her Princess Maci, because she really thinks the world revolves around her," her owner, Tanja Loeb, said.

Scott Weese, a professor at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, discovered the case while running a 40-dog study trying to determine how often COVID-19 transmits from owners to their pets.

Weese said around 20 dogs have tested positive for the disease in the United States.

"One of the reasons we're looking at animals is because we want to keep this a human virus," Weese said. "If it's a human virus, it's easier to control because we just pay attention to one species. If it can spread to pets or livestock or wildlife, then that brings in a whole new side effect."

Loeb owns two dogs -- Maci and Theo. Maci tested positive for COVID-19 and Theo was considered a "borderline positive."

Maci and Theo

"We were in bed with flu-like symptoms and so they were in bed with us and a couple times I wondered like are they just being quiet and calm because maybe they’re not feeling well or are they being empathetic towards us?" Loeb said.

Weese drove out to Niagara to test Loeb's dogs. Maci had the virus in her intestinal tract.

"With dogs we just go on the outside of the nose, we go in a bit and then we get a swab from their throat and we get it from their bum," Weese explained.

"I think it's not easy to get the subjects to catch, you have to get them while the families are ill," Loeb said. "The dogs only have the virus for a short period of time."

Weese said he's tested about 40 dogs so far. He's faced some travel limits, since they are going into people's homes after they've tested positive for the disease.

Weese and his team wear full personal protective equipment when performing tests to keep themselves and the pets' owners safe.

He said his initial research showed humans can spread the virus to dogs, but dogs can't spread it to others.

"They probably can't transmit it," he said. "They're what we call a dead-end host, where the virus goes into them and then it just disappears. But, we need a little more information to be confident in that."

Weese added that other dogs may have had the disease in Canada, but Maci was the first confirmed case. He added they likely won't show symptoms.

"From a dog health standpoint, we're not too concerned at this point," he said.

Loeb said she's proud that her dog can help combat a global health crisis.

"It was just about knowing that it's possible that they do have the active virus and feeling good about Maci being not just a dog, but maybe having a little legacy too," she said.

Weese said any households that have contracted the disease should also quarantine their pets as a precaution.

With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Krista Sharpe and files from The Canadian Press