Coronavirus advice for animal owners

We know, as a pet owner, you may be concerned about how to keep your pets safe and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. Working with many animal health organisations we’ve produced guidance to support you to keep your pets safe and healthy at this time.

Access to veterinary care

Vet practices across the UK have been able to stay open during the pandemic, but the services they are able to offer will vary depending on local restrictions.

Wherever you are based, please always call your veterinary practice first to arrange the best approach to meet your pet’s needs at this time. As with all aspects of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, you should follow social distancing measures when interacting with your veterinary surgery. This may mean you need to wait in the car and allow your vet to assess your pet alone. Your veterinary surgery will be able to offer you advice on the social distancing measures they have put in places.

Vets are working hard to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams. We’re asking the public to respect their veterinary teams and understand that they are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

England national lockdown 5 November – 2 December 2020

The strong message from the government is for people to stay at home during the national lockdown in England (5 November-2 December). However, the government has recognised that access to veterinary services during this time is important to protect animal health and welfare. With this in mind, veterinary practices in England will continue to stay open, but practices will be risk assessing each case using their professional and clinical judgement to assess whether in-person treatment is required, or whether services could be provided remotely. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Wales

During the Wales Firebreak Lockdown (23 October – 8 November) veterinary practices were only providing essential and urgent care. They are now able to provide a more normal range of services, as long as they continue to comply with general Covid-19 business requirements on working safely. Veterinary practices will be risk assessing each case using their professional and clinical judgement to assess whether in-person treatment is required, or whether services could be provided remotely. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Scotland local Covid Protection Levels

In November 2020, Scotland moved to a system of local Covid Protection Levels. Under all levels, veterinary practices can remain open as long as they continue to comply with general Covid-19 business requirements on working safely. If you live in a Covid Protection Level 3 or 4 local authority, Scottish Government guidance sets out that you can still travel outside of your local authority area for essential animal welfare reasons such as accessing veterinary care.

Veterinary practices will be risk assessing each case using their professional and clinical judgement to assess whether in-person treatment is required, or whether services could be provided remotely. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Northern Ireland 

New restrictions come into effect on 27 November 2020. These restrictions are in place to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and to help manage the pressures on the health and social care system.

Veterinary practices in Northern Ireland are permitted to remain open and continue to operate. Veterinary practices will be risk assessing each case using their professional and clinical judgement to assess whether in-person treatment is required, or whether services could be provided remotely. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Face coverings

If you’re a member of the public, you must wear a face covering in veterinary practices by law in England, Scotland, and Wales, unless you’re exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. More information is available on the UK government website.

In Northern Ireland, the use of face coverings is mandatory on public transport only. It is strongly advised that you should think about using face coverings in circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces - where social distancing is not possible.

Vets are working hard to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams. We’re asking the public to respect their veterinary teams and understand that they are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

Covid-19 frequently asked questions

Before contacting us, please take a look at our frequently asked questions for the answer to some of our most common queries.

Pet vaccinations

Vets will risk assess each case to decide when vaccinations need to go ahead. These assessments will vary across the country due to local disease risks. They will also vary between clients due to individual circumstances.

We’re asking all animal owners to respect their vets’ clinical and professional judgement and be patient during this time. Read our statement on respecting your vet team during Covid-19

Behavioural changes in pets

As we change our behaviour during this coronavirus lockdown, animals can be affected too. This guidance on recognising changes in your pet’s behaviour will help you to identify behavioural changes and outline steps you can take to help your pet cope. There is also specific guidance for kitten owners and puppy owners

Thanks to Sarah Heath FRCVS, Daniel Mills FRCVS, Lorella Notari MRCVS, and Rachel Casey MRCVS, recognised specialists in behavioural medicine, for producing this guidance.

Coronavirus and animals

There is currently no definitive evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners. According to the OIE, the current spread of Covid-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no reason to conclude that companion animals can spread the disease. The OIE states that there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans. 

From the small number of cases it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease.

The virus responsible for Covid-19 was detected in a pet cat in England in July, the first such known case in the UK, following tests at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge. The government has emphasised that all available evidence suggests that the cat contracted the coronavirus from its owners, who had previously tested positive for Covid-19. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and no other animals or people in the household were affected.

There continues to be no evidence that infected pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners, and there is no evidence to suggest that companion animals that have been infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19 back to humans.

It is also the case that animals may act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur for a short period of time in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. That’s why our main advice for animal owners continues to be to practise good hand hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds with soap and water) after touching your pet.

Advice if you have Covid-19 or are self-isolating 

The OIE recommends that people who are sick with Covid-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus. Read the OIE Questions and answers on the novel Coronavirus in full.

Government advice is that owners of pets in households with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, who think their pet may need veterinary treatment, should make contact with the practice first and alert them to the household’s status. Read the Defra Covid-19 advice for people with animals.

Our advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 or self-isolating with symptoms is:

  • Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary animal health measure until more information is known about the virus.
  • If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  • Keep cats indoors if possible, and only if they are happy to be indoors, and try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practise good hand hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals can pass Covid-19 to humans.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice and alert them to the household’s status.  
  • If your pet requires essential treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

What you can do to keep yourself and your pet safe and healthy 

We've joined forces with some of the nation's best-loved national pet charities and experts to help pet owners find the right advice. 

The group has produced tips and advice on how to look after your pets while you protect yourself during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The advice includes:

  • how to care for pets while social distancing or in self-isolation;
  • how to help others look after their pets;
  • how to look after your pets while you protect yourself 

We encourage you to share the graphics across your networks using #ComfortInCrisis. 

The CFSG has also put together advice for dog walkers with further information on the cases when you should continue walking someone else's dog and what measures you can put in place to protect yourself and your pet. 

Download the advice
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