Environmental

Coronavirus & Pets Q&A

Sindi Barrios

Pet owners have been asking us about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on our furry friends. So, we’ve collated the most 10 frequently asked questions and tried to make sense of it all.

Dog collar

1. Can I still take my dog out for a walk?
Yes. Walking your dog is allowed as your one form of daily exercise.
If you are healthy with no symptoms, the Government has advised that you can go out once a day for exercise, and this should include walking your dog. You must always stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart if you encounter other people and have the dog on a lead.
Discourage others to stroke your dog so they can keep their distance from you. Likewise, don’t stroke other dogs.
Don’t forget to wash your hands after you return back home.

Calendar

2. Am I allowed to take my dog for a walk more than once a day?
The current Government rules state that you can leave your house to exercise once a day but, if you live in a household with more people, each person can go out with the dog once a day.
Don’t over tire your dog. If they’re used to less than a mile, don’t suddenly take them on a marathon distance hike. Similarly, if you’ve taken up running during lock down don’t just assume your dog can keep up. Ask yourself are they a sprinter (Greyhound, Lurcher, Saluki…) or endurance (Husky, Weimaraner, Labrador…) build breed?
If you’ve got a new puppy during or just before lockdown, then they need limited (short and often) exercise not the Great North Run!

Dog

3. How do I handle my dog’s loo breaks?
If your dog needs further loo breaks and you do not have a garden, stay as near to home as possible. As always, clear up your dog’s mess and wash your hands when you get home – but then you would anyway.

House

4. Should cats be kept inside?
Your feline friend can continue to go outside to explore the great outdoors as these wanderings are good for your cat’s mental health.

Some news outlets have featured stories that advise cat owners to keep their cats indoors; but the British Veterinary Association suggested that only the households with coronavirus or people self-isolating to keep their felines indoors.

There is no evidence that any pets in the UK have been infected with COVID-19, but the Government still recommends washing your hands before and after any contact with your pet – as other people may have stroked your cat or patted the dog.

There is no evidence to suggest that domestic pets can catch COVID-19.
UK Government

Vet

5. Can I take my pet to the vet?
Vets are still open, but the Government have advised that ‘all non-essential’ trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pet’s needs.

Many Veterinary Practices offer online face-to-face appointments to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

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6. What can I do if I can’t leave my house, but my pet needs to see the vet or requires a prescription?
In this situation, if your pet needs to go to the vet, you will need to ask a family member, friend or neighbour to take it for you.

Ring in advance to arrange an appointment, and see if they offer an alternative method for the consultation eg video messaging (Skype, Zoom, Facetime etc). If they need to see your pet ‘in person’ then be sure to check if they require a formal ‘letter of authority’ for the person taking the pet for you.
If your pet had a longer term condition, then you can ring your surgery to ask for a prescription to be put up for you, which again a friend could pick up for you at an agreed time.
Should you wish to order your drugs from us, you could ask your Vet to email or send the prescription to you, or they might be prepared to email directly to us. (Please note that for orders of Controlled Drugs we have to receive the ORIGINAL prescription in the post).

Remember we can also supply flea products, wormers and pet foods, though, in the current lockdown, there can be a delay of a few days for delivery.

House and person

7. Can my pet stay with me if I’m well but self-isolating?
The Government advice is that if you’re self-isolating you should NOT go outside, but as there is no evidence to suggest that domestic pets can catch COVID-19, pets can stay with you.
It is advised that you regularly wash your hands before after playing with your pet, and after feeding them.
So be sure to give the dog/cat a cuddle. If you’re self-isolating you’re probably feeling a bit blue, and a spot of pet fussing always makes you feel that tiny bit better.

If you have a dog that needs taking out for a walk and comfort breaks, this should be done by another member of the household, or a friend, neighbour or family member.

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8. If I’m unwell, how do I look after my pet?
First and foremost, if you think it is case of COVID-19 then contact the NHS and do not go out at all.
Next, make sure you have plenty of pet food in the house. Buy this food online or ask friends or neighbours to pick some up from the shops – just think ahead, so they don’t run out!

If you are unwell and there is no one else in your household to look after your pet, reach out to friends, family or neighbours to see if they can help.

For healthy housecats, litter changing aside, they’re naturally self-isolating and as long as you’re feeling well enough to feed them, they’ll be fine.
Outdoor cats don’t even have the litter factor to contend with. Just when they do deem it time to pop in, be sure wash your hands after handling them.

Dogs can be more problematic because they must be taken outside for walks and comfort breaks. This is where your friends or family must help. Make sure to stay more than 2 metres apart when they pick up and drop the dog off and ensure that their collar and lead is secure. And of course, ensure everybody washes their hands after handling the dog.

Pet toys

9. How to keep my pet active and happy at home if I’m self-isolating?
Cats are unlikely to notice the difference as much. If they’re a house cat, they’ll be used to all their usual toys, hiding places and litter station… and will no doubt love having you at home much more than usual.

For cats that are used to going outside, again their routine won’t change as they come and go as they please. But when they come back in wash your hands before and after petting and stroking them.

For dogs, if you’re self-isolating, you will have to arrange for someone else to take the dog out for walks and comfort breaks. Wash your hands when your dog returns home. But for the rest of the day, they will be spending a lot more time indoors with you. Most dogs will be very happy about this, but some might get more bored as they have less outside stimulation and exercise. So make time to play with your dog, to reduce boredom, restlessness and frustration.

Remember that children should always be supervised around dogs and get to know any signs your dog may be showing to let you know they need some space. Your children will probably enjoy planning games to play with the dog, but make sure they play when the dog is receptive to this level of attention.

To keep your dog entertained, why not try:

1. Have a treasure hunt, hiding some favourite treats around the house.
2. Play their favourite game, such as catch, fetch or tug of war, which dogs love!
3. Teach some new tricks and commands, such as lie down and roll over!
4. Build them a doggy den which is cosy and comfortable for relaxing and sleeping.

Pet bowl

10. Will there be a shortage of pet food?
Many pet owners are worried that the current Coronavirus situation will result in a shortage of dog or cat food. Well no, there won’t be a shortage, not now.

Yes, when it all got a little panicky, we did take a large number of lines off our site for a time as our supply chain couldn’t keep pace with the incredible demand. Now, things have calmed down, manufacturers have ramped up capacity and wholesalers increased their stock holdings – so there should be plenty of food, no matter what form or flavour your four-legged friend prefers!

But why not take this opportunity to try them on something a little different? Just tell your pet stocks are low – they can’t read newspapers or websites. Well, dogs can’t, not sure about cats.

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!