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

Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK many vet practices have remained open to provide essential care to protect the health and welfare of animals, and support the food supply chain. Most vet practices are currently open and adapting to provide a more normal range of services whilst protecting the safety of pet owners and the veterinary team. We advise owners to contact their local practice directly to find out if they are open and what measures they currently have in place to support social distancing.

Please always call your veterinary practice first to arrange the best approach to meet your pet’s needs at this time.

As we slowly begin to move out of the lockdown, veterinary practices are adapting to provide services in different ways to keep you and your animals safe. 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.

As always, decisions will vary between practices and in different parts of the country.

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

Social distancing 

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. You should call you surgery first if you think your pet needs to be seen by a vet.

Your veterinary surgery will be able to offer you advice on the social distancing measures they have put in place. Vets will be working in line with national and devolved legislation and local guidance to keep you and their teams safe.

Download the FECAVA advice for pet owners on social distancing when taking your pet to the vet.

Face covering

In Scotland, face coverings are mandatory on public transport and in shops. Vet practices are not considering shops in Scotland, however the practice may ask you wear a face covering when visiting. 

In Northern Ireland, the use of face coverings is mandatory on public transport only. You should consider wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces for example, where social distancing is not possible. In Wales, face coverings are mandatory on public transport and advised in enclosed spaces. 

In England, from Saturday 8 August, members of the public must, by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption, however, there is not an expectation that veterinary practices should police the law, and you should be mindful that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for various reasons. More information is available on the government website.

If you need to enter a veterinary practice at this time, the practice may contact you in advance and ask you to wear a cloth facial covering. They will discuss this with you during the triage and appointment booking process.

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.

Pet owners with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 should:

  • 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.
  • 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 on the recent case of a cat contracting coronavirus from its owner.

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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