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 place.

Across the UK, members of the public must, by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. More information is available on the government website.

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.

England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland lockdowns

In line with governments’ strong ‘stay at home’ message, veterinary practices are remaining open to focus on providing services that are needed to maintain the food supply chain, or which are essential for animal health and welfare or public health, including to relieve pain and suffering.

Your vet will risk assess each case and exercise their clinical and professional judgement to decide whether face-to-face treatment or care is essential at this time, whether services could be provided remotely, or whether treatment can be safely postponed until after the lockdown. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Wales

All of Wales moved into alert level 4 from midnight on 19 December 2020.

Veterinary services can continue to operate, but non-essential sales of petcare products must cease, in line with suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should also be deferred.

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.

Animal keepers should make themselves aware of, and follow, Welsh Government guidance

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

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 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 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 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.

Read our statement.

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 brought your ferret into the UK from a country not on the travel corridor list
  • you’ve recently returned with your pet through the Pet Travel Scheme back to Wales.

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 

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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