Q&A – Coronavirus and pets

As a nation of pet lovers, many UK owners will not only be worried about themselves during the covid-19 pandemic, but also about their pets.

Whether you’re self-isolating with your pet or not sure if you can walk your dog, we answer some pet related covid-19 FAQs…

Can animals catch covid-19?

The main driver of the Covid-19 pandemic is human-to-human contact and there is no evidence to show that animals play a significant role in how the virus spreads. It is extremely rare for animals to catch Covid-19, but it is possible if they are in close contact with an infected person.

There have been a very small number of pets (around 15 in total) across the world that have tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19), including a case of a cat testing positive in the UK. From the small number of cases of Covid-19 in pets, it is thought that some pets can show some symptoms if they are infected, but these are mild and usually improve after a few days. There is no evidence that pets can transmit the virus to humans.

If you are worried about your pet during this time and they are showing any symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, breathing difficulty, a runny nose, weepy eyes or a high temperature, it’s best to contact your vets for advice as they symptoms could be related to other health issues and are extremely unlikely to be Covid-19 related.

Can I still stroke my pet as normal?

As long as you are healthy and have no symptoms you are still able to interact with your pet as normal. Although it has been confirmed that you cannot contract Covid-19 from pets, it is advised to wash your hands regularly before and after any contact with your pet.

Is my cat OK to go outside?

If you are healthy (no Covid-19 symptoms or positive test) there is no reason to keep your cat inside if they usually go out regularly. If you do have symptoms, try to keep them indoors if possible – only if they do not seem stressed by this change in their routine.

Can I still walk my dog in lockdown?

Yes, it is important for your dog to continue to get regular exercise. Government guidelines say that you are ok to walk your dog as part of daily exercise while respecting social distancing. Be sure to walk your dog on local routes and try to avoid contact with other dog walkers and if possible, walk your dog at less busy times of the day. Keep your dog on a lead and under close control around others and in public places and thoroughly wash your hands before leaving the house and when you return.

If I’m self-isolating can I still walk my dog?

If you’re self-isolating and worried about caring for your dog or other pets, ask someone if they could look after them during this time. You could contact your local kennel or cattery or a friend of family member to make sure your pet gets the care they need. If you are self-isolating you shouldn’t leave the house, so if you don’t have a large garden for them to run around in, you would need to ask a neighbour or family member to walk your dog for you.

Can I still get medication and pet supplies?

Yes, pet shops are classed as essential so will remain open during lockdown. Make sure you have enough essential in, such as food or cat litter, but don’t stockpile. Supermarkets will remain open if you need more. If your pet needs medications, check with your vet what services they are offering for collection or delivery. Always call your vets first as they may be closed to walk-ins during this time. If you are worried about your pet’s health always speak to your vet first.

Is it true that hand sanitisers/anti-bac gel is poisonous to dogs?

This is not true – hand sanitisers contain ‘ethanol’ (alcohol), not ethylene glycol. Ethanol (alcohol) can be harmful if ingested in a large quantity (i.e. an entire bottle), but it evaporates quickly and IS NOT HARMFUL if it’s accidentally licked in small quantities from your skin, or on your pet’s fur. Please do be put you off using hand sanitiser products at this critical time. However, it’s always important that you only use pet-safe products on your pet so we wouldn’t recommend applying human products to your pet’s skin or fur.

As a pet owner, what can I do to help prevent the spread of the virus?

Please follow the latest Government advice by maintaining social distancing (for you and your pet) when you’re out, and following good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently, especially before and after leaving the house for essentials. We’d also recommend washing your hands after handling or feeding pets, especially if they go outside at times when you’re not with them, as this may also help to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. It’s also a good idea to avoid touching other people’s pets where possible, for instance if a cat comes to your garden, and if you’re caring for someone else’s pets, make sure you’re even more careful with your hand hygiene and try to keep a distance and consider wearing a mask if you’re going to be spending a lot of time with someone else’s pet.

Some information was taken from the PDSA blog. More advice on Covid-19 and your pets can be found at www.pdsa.org.uk.