Advice from our animal experts: Our animal experts have provided advice to help keep you and your pets as safe as possible during the lockdown.

Last updated 12/06/2020

We have put the following information together, and provided useful links to further help and advice, based on the current information available. We will continue to monitor the information available, and update our advice as more information becomes available.

Coronavirus in dogs and cats

There have been many inaccurate reports in the press about pets catching and spreading Coronavirus, and we want to reassure you that cases of pets contracting Covid-19 from their owners remain extremely rare, and to date, there is no known evidence of the virus passing from pets to humans. However, the virus could be passed from person to person via surfaces such as a dog or cat's fur or collar, or lead. So, we advise that everyone takes sensible hygiene precautions around their pets. You should also avoid touching other animals outside your home.
Recent news reports may have left pet owners feeling particularly concerned about their cats and the possible impact of Covid-19 on their furry friends but we are reassuring owners that the risk is incredibly small. There is no need to worry about continuing to care for your cats.

  • There is further information from the RSPCA here
  • Information from The British Veterinary Association here

Looking after your pets:

If you have not tested positive for coronavirus and have not been asked to self-isolate, then you should continue to interact with your dog or cat as normal and follow Government advice on how to behave during the lockdown, information about Government advice is available here. In line with Public Health England advice, you should always adopt good hygiene practices when interacting with your pets, this includes washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching your dog or cat, their food, toys or bedding. It’s also not a good idea to kiss your pet, let them lick you, or share food! Even though there is no evidence that coronavirus can be carried by pets, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly to help protect you against common infections that can pass between pets and humans.

Should I keep my cat in?

If you or someone in your house is ill with the virus then if your cat is happy to stay in and is used to using a litter tray then keeping them in may be advisable. If they go outside a lot then try to minimise interaction with them and wash your hands afterwards. We do not recommend forcing a cat to stay in who is not used to it, as this may cause stress and even some serious health problems.

Can I walk my dog?

You may leave your house to walk your dog. In doing so, you must stick to government advice (remain two metres away from anyone outside of your household). Don’t forget that your dog will still need to go outside to toilet, so do make sure they get regular access to the garden, or just outside your house, to do so. Whilst you may not be able to walk your dog as often as normal, there are lots of ways to keep your dog happy, healthy and entertained without going out, you can try out some new activities like games and teaching them new tricks – check out our Pet Advice page for more information and some great ideas from our animal experts.

Is my dog allowed to mix with other dogs when on a walk?

There is no Government guidance on whether or not dogs are allowed to meet one another when out on a walk. However, we would advise keeping dogs on the lead during this period. If there was an incident involving the dogs then this would require the owners to come into close contact but in addition it may also result in a vet visit which would also result in close contact. We recognise that being walked on a lead may be difficult, especially if they are used to playing and interacting with other dogs.

What should I do with my pets if I am ill or someone in my house is ill because of Covid-19?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19 just like you would around other people. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a face-mask. All household members should be following good hygiene practices when handling pets.

If you have any concerns about your pet or your pet shows signs of ill health, please do not visit the vet but phone for advice. As you will be unable to take your pet to the vet yourself, have a plan so that someone else can do this on your behalf.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, suspect you have it or are feeling particularly unwell, you can download this form to display in your home so should the emergency services need to visit, they know there is an animal inside.

Can I walk a dog for someone who is self-isolating or vulnerable?

Yes, you can walk a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self-isolating or being shielded due to being vulnerable (including being over 70), or if they are a key-worker (NHS staff or similar). Always remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog, and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner – remember that the virus could pass from person to person on surfaces such as the lead or collar. Some safety tips to help you plan assisting with someone else’s dog, for your safety and theirs:

  • Agree the process with them in advance, so you both know how you will collect and drop the dog back, whilst observing the 2 meter distancing rules
  • Wash your hands before & after for 20 seconds, using soap and water
  • Use a different lead to the owners
  • Avoid going into their home if at all possible, if it isn’t, don’t touch doors (ask them to open and close them), wear a mask and observe the 2 meter distancing rule at all time
  • Avoid contact with your face, or personal objects (like your mobile phone) at all times
  • Whist walking the dog, to protect the owner and other people, ensure they avoid contact with people or other pets

What about visiting my Vet?

All non-essential trips to see your vet should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment you can take them, but remember to observe the government advice (remain 2 metres away from anyone outside your household). Your own vet will be able to provide further help, and let you know what procedures they have put in place to manage the situation as safely as possible. Always contact your vet before going to see them.

What constitutes a vet emergency?

Please contact your vet if any of the following occur with your pet:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Open wound injuries
  • Trauma (e.g. car accidents)
  • Male cats struggling in the litter tray to pass urine
  • Rabbits neglecting food
  • Swallowing hazards
  • Ingestion of poisonous/harmful substances
  • Eye problems
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea especially if your pet appears quiet or depressed or if it is going on for a long time (more than 24 hours)
  • Swollen abdomen or retching (especially large dogs)
  • Loss of thirst & appetite
  • Struggling to give birth
  • Seizure/fitting
  • Collapse

What do I do about my pet's vaccinations?

During the lock down, vets can only perform procedures if animal health or welfare is at risk, and for vaccinations this decision will be made on a case by case basis, taking all circumstances into account. If you have an vaccinated puppy or kitten, or pet which is over due a booster, please call your vet for advice.. This may however change if the lock down is extended. For un-vaccinated kittens, we advise they are kept in until the point that these can be given as there are significant risks if these are not done. For un-vaccinated puppies (who have not received the full course) you should avoid areas where other dogs could have been while also following our advice about vital socialisation. Adult dogs and cats have a three-month leeway after their booster is due and for some of the diseases, the protection is longer. However, immunity to leptospirosis or Weil's disease may lapse beyond 15 months and so we would recommend that taking measures to protect your dog from stagnant water and watercourses where there may be rats present, and their urine, is sensible.

What about routine medications?

It is important that your pet continues to receive its usual medication – please contact your vet to ask how they are facilitating this. It is also important to continue to give your pet their usual treatments like tick, worm and flea treatment, again we would encourage you to contact your vet to ask how they are providing these to clients. The best advice we can give is for you to contact your own vet to ask them any specific questions relating to your pets veterinary needs.

Pet food and medication:

We don’t know how long lock down will continue, or whether further restrictions may come into effect, or whether, for example, you may have to self-isolate; having a good supply of your pet’s essentials like food, litter and medication would help you and your pet should the situation change quickly.

Useful links:

We have added some useful links below to further reading and advice that you might find helpful.

  • Further advice and up to date information from the NHS can be found here.
  • Government advice for pet owners can be found here
  • Information from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons can be found here