Lifestyle Guides

Pets and Coronavirus: a guide

We’ve heard a lot about how Coronavirus affects humans, and how to minimise the risk of getting ill by following social distancing and other Government advice. But what about your pets and other animals you might look after? How does Coronavirus affect them and the way you care for them?

dog

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) is due to human-to-human transmission and there’s currently no evidence that companion animals can pass the disease to humans

Evidence suggests Covid-19 originally came from an animal source, but exactly what the source was and how the virus then moved to humans is still under investigation. 

Can animals become infected with Covid-19?

Now the virus is widespread among humans, it’s possible, the OIE explains, for some animals to become infected if they have close contact with infected humans. Dogs, domestic cats, a tiger, and some mink have all tested positive for the virus after close contact with infected humans. 

This isn’t the case for all animals, however, and further research is needed to work out why this is. Preliminary findings suggest poultry and pigs aren’t susceptible, for example. 

Can infected animals pass Coronavirus to humans? 

Studies have shown cats are most susceptible to the virus, and they’re also able to pass it to other cats. However it’s important to remember that there’s currently no evidence that pets can pass the virus to humans. 

Humans can pass the virus to other humans and certain types of animals, but animals that have been infected by humans can’t pass it back to humans. 

However the British Veterinary Association (BVA) explains it’s possible that animals may act as fomites. A fomite is an inanimate object or material where an infection can survive for a period of time, for example a door knob or table. The virus may be able to exist on an animal’s fur for a short time in the same way that it might on a hard surface. 

For this reason, the BVA recommends making sure you wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water after touching your pet. 

cat licking its paw

Visiting your vet during lockdown

Can I take my pet to the vet during lockdown?

It’s not business as usual for vets during the lockdown, with the majority only open for emergency treatment. If you’re concerned about your pet, phone your veterinary surgery for advice.

It’s important that you cooperate with the staff at your veterinary surgery to make it as easy as possible for them to do their job under lockdown restrictions. This might mean you’re asked to wait in the car while they treat your pet, for example. 

There will be delays for any non-essential treatment, but the BVA is asking that people respect their vet’s judgement and be patient. 

Visiting your vet during Covid-19 lockdown

If you do need to take your pet to the vet for essential treatment, you’ll need to follow social distancing guidelines as you would anywhere else during lockdown. 

Follow these steps to try and minimise any risks from going to the vet, both to yourself and to others: 

  1. Before going to the vet, call for advice
  2. If your pet needs to go to the vet, only one healthy adult should go with it
  3. Wait outside when you arrive and follow instructions from surgery staff
  4. Stay at least two metres away from other people at all times
  5. Try not to touch anything in the waiting and consultation room
  6. Use a contactless payment method if possible

What should I do if my pet is due a vaccination during lockdown? Does that count as essential care? 

If your pet is due a routine vaccination during lockdown, you should call your vet for advice. 

The BVA says a risk assessment has shown some vaccinations could go ahead during lockdown. However this doesn’t mean vaccinations must be carried out, and it’s down to individual vets to decide if the vaccination is needed at this particular time. This will vary across the country and from pet owner to pet owner depending on circumstances and risk. 

Again, this is a situation where you’ll need to trust and respect your vet’s decision. 

cat climbing for exercise

Pet care during lockdown

How should I look after my pet if I have Coronavirus symptoms and I’m self-isolating? 

Evidence shows humans can pass the virus onto certain animals. Even though the animals can’t then pass it on to other humans, the OIE recommends that anyone with a confirmed case of Covid-19 or symptoms of the virus should avoid contact with animals where possible. 

If there’s no one else in the household who can care for your pet, the BVA advises you should wash your hands before and after interacting with them, and wear a face mask if possible. 

If you have a dog but don’t have a garden big enough for it to exercise in, the government recommends you ask someone from outside your household to walk it. To do this, the BVA recommends you maintain social distancing with the person walking the dog and make sure they use hand sanitiser before and after if they can’t wash their hands. 

If you have a cat, you should keep it indoors if possible. Only do this if they’re happy to stay inside, though. 
If you think your pet might need to go to the vet, give the practice a call so they can advise you, making sure you mention you have Coronavirus symptoms and are self-isolating. 

For more information on caring for other animals such as horses and livestock during lockdown, take a look at the Government’s advice

Why is my pet acting differently? 

Lockdown has changed all of our routines and for many of us life currently looks very different to usual. As our routines change, so does our behaviour, and this can be unsettling for pets. 

The chances are you’re home a lot more than usual, which your pet may well love. But everyone being at home may mean much more noise and activity during the day, particularly if you have kids, and some pets can find this stressful.

This may also be coupled with less exercise for your dog, or maybe they aren’t allowed to run around off the lead like usual. It can all add up and result in your pet behaving differently.  

If you’re concerned about your pet’s behaviour, take a look at the BVA’s advice for guidance.   

A pet’s for life, not just lockdown

Has all the time at home during lockdown tempted you to buy a pet? If this sounds familiar, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. 

The RSPCA and other animal charities are urging potential new pet owners to remember that, while they may have a lot more time on their hands now, that won’t always be the case. Getting a new pet is a big commitment, in terms of both time and cost. Not only that, but most reputable places you could get a pet will be closed for the lockdown. 

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