19-Feb-2021 | Animal welfare
Coronavirus advice for veterinary professionals
Veterinary services during Covid-19
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis veterinary professionals have been able to work, in line with the UK government's advice to business. Initially (in March 2020), this work was limited to urgent and emergency services, and services to maintain the food supply chain. Practices then transitioned to providing services that are essential for animal health and welfare or public health, including to relieve pain and suffering.
As rules have changed across the UK veterinary practices have been adapting their working practices and range of services in line with local, regional, and national lockdown measures.
All veterinary services must be provided in a manner that supports social/physical distancing and good hygiene and biosecurity.
Updated guidance on working safely during Covid-19
For the most up to date guidance on working safely during Covid-19 please refer to our FAQs.
England - national lockdown
On 4 January the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown for England. Veterinary practices can remain open but BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.
All of Wales moved into alert level 4 from midnight on 19 December 2020.
Welsh Government has advised that veterinary services may continue to operate, but non-essential sales of petcare products must cease, in line with the suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should be deferred. Vets and animal keepers should make themselves aware of, and follow, Welsh Government guidance.
Veterinary practices in Wales must continue to assess and triage cases in the context of the restrictions and RCVS guidance.
Mainland Scotland and some islands - (temporary national lockdown, Covid protection level 4)
Mainland Scotland and some islands are in lockdown, where Covid Protection Level 4 guidance has been replaced by guidance to stay at home, except for essential purposes.
BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.
Veterinary teams should refer to the new BVA guidance which complements the RCVS flowchart for mainland Scotland (temporary lockdown).
Note: On 13 January the First Minister announced further tightening of Covid-19 restrictions, including putting into law that in Level 4 areas work is only permitted within a private dwelling if it is essential for the upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household. Scottish Government has clarified that home visits by vets for essential animal welfare purposes continue to be permitted under this exemption.
Scotland - Covid protection levels 0-3
Some Scottish islands remain under Covid Level 3 restrictions. Under all levels, veterinary services are classed as essential services.
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 to go to work if your work cannot be done from home, and clients are still able to travel for essential animal welfare reasons, such as accessing veterinary care .
Northern Ireland - lockdown
The Northern Ireland Executive introduced a six-week lockdown on 26 December 2020 and an order for people to stay at home becomes legally enforceable from 00.01hrs Friday 8 January 2021.
Veterinary practices can remain open but BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.
Previous BVA guidance
You can access previous guidance for veterinary professionals:
- Guidance for UK veterinary practices on working safely during Covid-19 (3 December 2020)
- Guidance for veterinary practices during the 2nd national lockdown in England (November 2020)
- Guidance on essential veterinary care (reissued 20 October 2020)
- A guide for vets in clinical practice (published 28 May 2020)
- Guidance on essential veterinary care (published 13 April 2020)
- Guidance in assessing emergency and urgent care (published March 2020)
Webinars - Covid-19 and the veterinary profession
We ran a programme of webinars, in partnership with The Webinar Vet, to help keep you up-to-date on the restrictions, what they mean for veterinary work, and our lobbying efforts to secure support for veterinary businesses. The sessions also provided an opportunity for you ask your questions direct to our President, Daniella Dos Santos.
Resources for veterinary practices
Resources for veterinary practices
Download our social media graphics and poster to help you communicate the key Covid-19 messages to your clients.
Contact tracing across the UK
The four nations of the UK have launched contact tracing programmes.
- Northern Ireland: Test, trace, isolate, support
- England: NHS Test and Trace
- Scotland: Test and Protect
- Wales: Test Trace Protect
Employees in self-isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day they are in isolation, as long as they meet the eligibility conditions.
Before booking appointments, we’re advising practices to clarify whether clients are exempt from wearing face coverings and, if clients are exempt, advise clients if any adjustments will be made to how services are provided.
The BVA legal helpline is available to all members with any questions about the impact of Covid-19 on your business or employment rights. You may also want to take a look at the helpline Coronavirus FAQs.
Changes to RSPCA out-of-hours
RSPCA have made a permanent change to their out-of-hours provision, which may have an impact on veterinary professionals. Details on who you can contact at RSPCA out-of-hours are available for members to view in this resource.
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. Vets should continue to take the usual precautions when handling animals and animal products in line with good biosecurity protocols.
More detailed reports on SARS-Cov-2 infections in animals that have been reported to the OIE can be accessed at the OIE’s Findings in Animals page.
Tests for Covid-19 in animals are now available in the UK but have to meet strict criteria. More information is available in our FAQs.
Advice if pet owners 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 Covid-19 in full.
Read our full advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 or self-isolating with symptoms on our coronavirus advice for animal owners page.