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.

Accessing veterinary care

As lockdown restrictions across the UK ease, veterinary practices are beginning to transition towards providing a more normal range of services.

Although roadmaps out of lockdown have been issued across the nations of the UK, this does not mean that practices will be returning to offering a normal range of services straight away.

Each veterinary practice will be making this transition at their own pace, based on their available resources and the extent to which they can adapt their workplace or working practices in accordance with national and devolved legislation and local guidance.

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.

Vets are working hard to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams. As always, decisions will vary between practices and in different parts of the country. We’re asking the public to respect their veterinary teams and understand that they are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

Face coverings

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

If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, please notify your veterinary practice when booking your appointment.

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

Read our blog with top tips for helping your puppy cope with a post-lockdown life on the BVA blog

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

Coronavirus and animals

There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can contract coronavirus. Cases in pet animals are very rare, and at present the evidence suggests that coronavirus:

  • may pass from infected humans to certain pets such as cats and ferrets following close contact
  • does not easily pass between cats or most other pets, but this cannot be ruled out
  • may pass between ferrets and humans based on the evidence from mink infections

However it is extremely important to reiterate that according to the OIE, the current pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission, and there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of Covid-19.

It is 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. In line with public health guidance, you should:

  • wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding
  • not share food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating

There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of coronavirus. Only wash or use products on your pets that are approved for use on animals.

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

The OIE recommends that people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the Covid-19 virus should minimise close direct contact with animals. 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 measure.
  • 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. 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.
  • Isolate ferrets for 21 days (owners do not need to isolate for 21 days and should complete the regular 10 days isolation period; however your ferret must stay indoors until their specific three week (21 day) isolation period is complete.) For more detail please see below section on updated guidance for ferret owners
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice first 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.

Updated guidance for ferret owners

Ferrets are known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. As a precautionary measure, the UK governments are advising that if you own a ferret, you must isolate your ferret for 21 days if:

  • you or your household are self-isolating (owners do not need to isolate for 21days and should complete the regular 10 days isolation period, however your ferret must stay indoors until their specific three week (21 day) isolation period is complete.)
  • You’ve recently travelled with your ferret into the UK from certain countries. Read the specific government guidance for ferret owners and travel in EnglandWalesScotland, and Northern Ireland.

Isolation means avoiding contact with either ferrets or people from other households (eg. taking your ferret for walks). If your ferret needs emergency veterinary care, you can arrange to have it taken to the vet but you should notify your veterinary practice of the situation.

In line with public health guidance, you should:

  • wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding
  • not share food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating

Read APHA’s Guidance on Preventative Measures regarding SARs-CoV-2 and Ferrets in the UK

If you are self-isolating for Covid-19, the Scottish Government also advise that you should ask someone else to care for your ferrets. Otherwise you should always wear a facemask and gloves, avoid kissing and cuddling the animals, make sure you wash your hands and limit the time spent with animals.

DAERA advice for Northern Ireland also states that you should avoid contact with ferrets if you have had a positive Covid-19 test or have symptoms suggestive of it. If you are the ferret carer, someone else will need to look after the ferret if possible. If this is not possible, you should wear a facemask and gloves.

Read the specific government guidance for ferret owners in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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

Some of the nation's best-loved national pet charities and experts have joined forces to help pet owners find the right advice. 

The Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) has produced tips and advice on how to look after your pets while you protect yourself during the pandemic. Read the CFSG top tips and helpful advice