Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

We've collated some of our most frequently asked questions on coronavirus to help you find the information you're looking for. These questions cover guidance for veterinary professionals, advice for students and the most common questions from pet owners and farmers. 

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In the workplace
Government support for businesses
Medicines
Vulnerable groups
Students
Mental health
Animal owners and breeders

In the workplace

How do I continue to work safely as lockdown restrictions are eased?

In March and April, the four governments of the UK started to ease Covid-19 restrictions in line with their respective roadmaps to open up the economy.

RCVS guidance allows practices in each of the UK administrations to provide a more normal range of services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement from the following dates: Wales 22 March; Scotland 5 April; England and Northern Ireland 12 April.

We’re encouraging practices to follow RCVS recovery guidance and BVA guidance on working safely as lockdown restrictions are eased.

You can access previous guidance for veterinary professionals:

How do I minimise client contact?

  • Risk assess all in-person work.
  • Clarify the client’s medical status with regard to Covid-19 before booking any appointments.
  • Clarify whether the client is exempt from wearing a face mask. If the client is exempt from wearing a facemask, advise owners if any adjustments will be made to how services are provided.
  • Advise owners coming into the practice (eg for a euthanasia) on what to expect, including that it may look and feel different to normal due to social distancing measures.
  • Only allow one client per animal, where possible.
  • Continue to ask clients to wait outside the consult room and, if necessary, outside the premises.
  • Obtain histories and discuss and agree treatment plans remotely.
  • Use technology to triage and consult whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Consider remote prescribing in line with RCVS guidance
  • Obtain payment remotely.
  • Ensure contact-free collection of medication is in place, with a specific, secure collection time and place organised in advance.
  • Post medication if appropriate following Post Office guidance and, where applicable, following RCVS controlled drugs guidance.
  • NOTE: in Scotland veterinary practices are classed as retail spaces, and from early October, shops across Scotland were asked to return to two metres physical distancing and reintroduce the mitigations they put in place earlier in the pandemic, including one-way systems.

How do I minimise contact within the team?

Minimise staff contact in the workplace as much as possible:

  • Stagger arrival, departure, and break times.
  • Reduce congestion, for example, by having more and separate entry and exit points to the workplace.
  • Work in consistent pairs or small teams, if possible, for those who need to work in close proximity, for example, work that involves lifting or restraining animals and surgical procedures.
  • Allocate teams to specific workspaces (such as consult rooms and theatres) and avoid sharing equipment where possible, such as pens, stethoscopes, and otoscopes.
  • Don’t share food and other provisions.

Read the BVA guidance for UK veterinary practices on working safely during Covid-19 for further details on re-thinking physical space and layout and working out of vehicles in ambulatory practice.

Do we need to wear face coverings?

Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and in shops in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Face coverings are not intended to protect the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you are asymptomatic. Do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection provided by wearing a face covering. It is essential that everyone continues to:

  • practise social distancing as much as humanly possible
  • wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough

England - Face coverings must be worn by retail, leisure and hospitality staff working in areas that are open to the public and where they’re likely to come into contact with a member of the public. Vet practices are not explicitly listed here but the guidance states that for other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case-by-case basis depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations they have put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.

Members of the public must, by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in England, 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.  

Scotland - Veterinary practices are classed as retail space in legislation and therefore staff, employees, and volunteers must wear a face covering unless they are separated by a partition, or maintain a distance of 2 metres It is important to remember that members of staff may be exempt from wearing a face covering for age, health or equality reasons. Employers should continue to follow the workplaces guidance on the Scottish Government website and should endorse and support staff to wear face coverings in all areas of the workplace, including those mandated by law, and to follow best practice in the use of face coverings.

Members of the public must also by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in Scotland, 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.

Wales -  Members of staff are required to wear a face covering in any indoor public space (i.e. any part of a premises that clients have access to) unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Further guidance can be found on the Welsh Government website. Employers in Wales are also required to mandate the use of face coverings in indoor workplaces where social distancing cannot be maintained unless there are strong reasons not to. More information for employers in Wales is available online

Members of the public must also by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in Wales, 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.

Northern Ireland - In Northern Ireland, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in any indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent which includes veterinary practices. People who work in relevant places must also wear a face covering unless they are separated from members of the public by a partition.

There is an exception to this mandate where a business is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments.  However, it is strongly advised that you should continue using face coverings in these circumstances. More information for employers in Northern Ireland is available online

What should I do if my employer is not following Government ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidance?

We are all responsible for slowing the spread of Covid-19.

If you have concerns as to how your employer is implementing guidance on working safely during the pandemic, please contact the BVA legal helpline and consult the ACAS specific coronavirus guidance for employers and employees.

What about Lateral Flow Tests?

As part of the government’s roadmap to cautiously lift restrictions, businesses of all sizes in England were invited to register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees. This enables employees to be tested twice a week in the workplace.

If you have 10 or more employees and cannot provide testing in the workplace, you can order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week.

In addition, anyone in England who does not have symptoms can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests to check for coronavirus. You can access this service through:

  • Going to a test site to get a test
  • Getting a test to do at home (collection from a pharmacy or test site, or order online for tests to be sent to your home). If you do tests at home, you'll need to report your results online or on the phone.

Read more details on the NHS website.

Find out about rapid lateral flow tests in Scotlandrapid lateral flow tests in Wales or rapid lateral flow tests in Northern Ireland.

What is the advice regarding contact tracing, use of PPE and self-isolation?

Vets are not exempt from contact tracing in any part of the UK. If a member of your team tests positive for Covid-19, team members who are classed as contacts will be required to self-isolate. It is vital that team members continue to socially distance as much as possible within the workplace to mitigate the risk of interactions being considered as ‘contacts’.

However, if vets have been using appropriate PPE in situations where they are unable to socially distance, this may be taken into account by contact tracers. Below is a summary of the guidance we have received from each country within the UK.

England –In February 2021 members reported to us that contact tracing systems have been updated to explicitly state that those working in veterinary settings are not exempt from self-isolation, even if they are wearing PPE. We contacted the government seeking clarity and will be updating the profession as soon as we know more.

Scotland - Health Protection Scotland guidance for contact tracing in complex settings specifies that if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been used – such as visors, masks, gloves-  in a non-health care or social care setting, an individual risk assessment will be undertaken by contact tracers to decide whether there has been an exposure risk sufficient to require contact isolation. The Scottish Government has confirmed that this guidance is applicable to veterinary settings.

What this means for you:

  • Members of the veterinary team do not need to wear more PPE than they usually would. It should be based on the practice’s own risk assessments. Full use of PPE is only appropriate in situations where you cannot maintain social distancing in your work, such as during dental work or surgery.
  • Social distancing, hand hygiene and biosecurity are all key aspects of disease control and use of PPE should not be used as a substitute for these measures. Any use of PPE must therefore also be accompanied by ongoing social and physical distancing (as far as possible), hand hygiene, and good biosecurity.
  • Continue to work in dedicated small teams and pairs and practise social and physical distancing as much as possible.
  • If you (or a member of your team) are contacted by a contact tracing call handler, provide full details about your PPE. The contact tracer should then conduct an individual risk assessment to determine if you are required to self-isolate.
  • If you (or a member of your team) test positive for Covid-19 make sure you explain the full circumstances to the contact tracing call handler, including full details about your PPE.
  • If a client or a contact outside your workplace names you as a contact, you may still need to self-isolate, as you won’t know who identified you due to confidentiality.
  • If you are using the Test and Protect app and receive a close contact alert advising you to self-isolate, but believe you were wearing PPE at the time of the contact, you can call the National COVID helpline (0800 028 2816) to help you understand the exposure notification and make an informed decision as to whether to self-isolate.

Using the NHS Scotland Test and Protect app when wearing PPE

Scottish Government guidance advises that all app users should keep their phone on and with them whenever possible, with the app active on their phone at all times except in a small number of circumstances:

  • If the user is a health or social care worker in a clinical setting, wearing medical grade PPE. This includes ambulance personnel
  • If the user is protected by a fixed physical barrier from customers and colleagues such as a Perspex screen for most of the working day. This doesn’t apply for those who constantly move around (e.g. café workers behind tills with a screen who also move around the café)
  • If the user keeps their phone in a locker or equivalent facility at work and not on their person

In these circumstances, ideally individuals should turn off their phone as that means the app will automatically continue to work when the phone is turned back on again. However, it is recognised that that is not always possible so alternatively users can choose to disable Bluetooth. It is also possible for users to turn off the Exposure Notification Setting on their mobile phone. This will turn off the ‘contact tracing' functionality until the Exposure Notification Setting is switched back on. The user will need to remember to turn their Exposure Notification Settings and/or Bluetooth back on.

If you receive a close contact alert advising you to self-isolate, but believe you meet one of the above scenarios, you can call the National COVID helpline (0800 028 2816) to help you understand the exposure notification and make an informed decision as to whether to self-isolate.

The app should NOT be switched off in the following scenarios:

  • Where PPE, including visors and face coverings, is used in non-clinical settings (e.g. building sites, café’s, transport, by fire and police personnel etc.)
  • In the home or vehicles (signals from adjoining properties or vehicles are unlikely to result in a contact alert)
  • Follow the NHS advice on when and how to pause the app

Wales - Welsh Government has not issued specific guidance on the use of PPE in relation to contact tracing. When the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service contacts an individual who tested positive they will seek as much information as possible on the particular situation and any mitigating measures in place such as protective screens, adherence to the 2m distancing rule, etc. In correspondence with BVA, Welsh Government said: “The decision on whether an individual in the veterinary profession is determined a contact and asked to self-isolate will vary dramatically based on the specific circumstances of the exposure to the index case, and so must be assessed by an NHS Wales TTP contact tracer on a case-by-case basis.”

Northern Ireland – We have received the following guidance from the Public Health Agency. Vets are not exempt from contact tracing or isolation, but if a team member tests positive and has been wearing full PPE, this may be taken into account by contact tracers, on a case-by-case basis, in terms of the risk to the people those individuals came into contact with.  As in the human health services wearing of PPE is only taken into account when the individual is wearing it as part of their healthcare duties and not in any other situations and the same would probably apply to veterinary services.

If a person in my team develops Coronavirus symptoms and self-isolates, does the rest of the team need to self-isolate?

No. Only people who share a home with someone who is demonstrating symptoms of Coronavirus are required to self-isolate alongside them. You should ensure that your workplace is implementing the ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines and that animals are only seen face-to-face where absolutely necessary.

Read government guidance on self-isolating

How do I create a QR code for the practice?

This service is only available in England and Wales. It allows visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app.

More information is available online

How should I approach a case with suspected clinical signs of coronavirus?

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.

If a pet animal is presenting with clinical signs, you should continue to pursue symptomatic treatment for clinical signs as normal and test for common respiratory pathogens. Read the APHA Briefing Note 10/20 Advice for Veterinarians and their Clients on Pets and COVID-19 in full.

NOTE: There is now a legal obligation to report the presence of Covid-19 in all mammals other than man. To report SARS-CoV-2 in England please call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.  In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office.

From the small number of cases reported in companion animals, it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease. Based on reported cases and knowledge of other Coronaviruses in pet animal species, presenting signs might include fever, malaise, respiratory and/or gastro-intestinal tract problems. There is currently no treatment for the virus itself.

Government advises that private testing should only be considered in animals which meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. The animal is a Felid, Canid, or Mustelid.
  2. It is exhibiting a combination of the following clinical signs as determined by a veterinary professional:
    1. respiratory infection
    2. gastrointestinal infection
    3. fever
  1. other common diagnoses have been considered and discounted as determined by a veterinary professional.
  2. the animal has had confirmed contact with a suspect or known human case of COVID-19 within three weeks of developing clinical signs.

Read the APHA Briefing Note 18/20 SARS-CoV-2 in Animals – Case Definition, Testing and International Reporting Obligations

Please note that when handling wildlife you should be aware of the guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): surveying and mitigation works affecting wildlife.

How should we provide care for pets from households with confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19?

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

The APHA Briefing Note 10/20 Advice for Veterinarians and their Clients on Pets and COVID-19 sets out that if you’re contacted by a pet owner who is self-isolating or has a confirmed case of Covid-19 you should:

  • In the first instance, provide advice remotely eg. by phone or teleconsult.
  • If the pet needs to visit the surgery, advise the pet owner to get a neighbour or friend from an unaffected household to bring in the animal. The handler should wash their hands before and after handling the pet, and may be able to minimise direct contact with the pet by use of a pet carrier.
  • If the pet need to visit the surgery, you should follow government social distancing guidance and use PPE as per the PHE infection prevention and control guide. You should use the virucidal disinfectants that you currently use around the practice after seeing the animal.

How should we provide care for pets from households with owners who are in vulnerable groups?

Some clients may be social distancing to protect their own health, if they have underlying health conditions or are over 70 for example. The APHA Briefing Note 10/20 Advice for Veterinarians and their Clients on Pets and COVID-19 sets out that to support these clients, consider organising collection or posting of medication. A friend or relative may be able to visit the practice with the pet. However, if this is not possible, consider other ways in which you may be able to support the owner and pet such as:

  • Advising the owner to wait in the car outside
  • Visiting at a quiet time of the day
  • Planning consultations with extra time either side
  • Carrying out the consultation without the owner being present with their input via a
  • telephone conversation
  • Organising a home visit (See FAQ on conducting home visits below)

How will restrictions in veterinary services impact on pet insurance?

Pet insurance members of the Association of Business Insurers (ABI) have agreed to provide support to customers wherever they can to ensure pets receive the care they need. This includes being flexible on policy conditions, in particular the requirement for pets to have up to date vaccinations and regular dental examinations. Read the ABI statement in full: Covid-19 – Pet Insurers agree commitments to reassure Britain's 7.7 million pet insurance customers.

Can I still do home visits?

If you consider that a home visit is necessary, you should risk assess and plan ahead.

For all home visits:

  • Discuss plans in advance with householders to confirm how you intend to work.
  • Make sure they understand the social distancing and hygiene measures that need to be followed and manage their expectations.
  • Minimise contact with the client and where face-to-face interaction is required, then this should only be with one person per visit. Ask the client to secure the animal ahead of the visit.
  • Ask householders to leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.
  • Use a fixed pairing system if you have to work in close proximity.
  • Allocate the same person to the same household if multiple visits are required

When visiting a household where someone is clinically vulnerable (but has not been asked to shield):

  • Make arrangements to avoid any face-to-face contact.
  • Be particularly strict about handwashing and other hygiene measures.

If you are requested to assist with an animal in an infected or suspected household:

  • Follow RCVS advice and APHA advice
  • There is no expectation that vets should attend an infected or suspected household, in line with the RCVS Code supporting guidance (3.37f and 3.43)
  • Wear appropriate PPE
  • Mitigate the risks, for example, by arranging to see the animal outside the home, ie in a garden or garage.

For further advice and guidance see also the ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines on working in other people’s homes (applicability is England only but the generic advice may be useful across the UK).

What about the Canine Health Schemes (CHS)?

The processing of hip and elbow submissions were impacted by the national lockdowns but we continue processing and scoring submissions by date received and our current turnaround time is four weeks, although we are still unable to offer a fast-track service.

Payment can only be taken once the submission has been received, so please wait for at least four weeks before calling to make payment.

To make a payment by card for postal submissions, please call the office on 020 7098 6380.

When calling please provide with the following information:

  • Date of radiography
  • Kennel Club/microchip number
  • Name of the veterinary practice

Contacting us

We appreciate the delay in scoring submissions is frustrating, and breeders and owners will be anxious to receive feedback on their submissions. If your client would like to make payment, please ask them to call 020 7908 6380 (please note this line is for payments only), for all other enquiries please email [email protected] and include the dog’s Kennel Club or microchip number, date of radiography, and the name of your practice. The team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Are vets exempt from border quarantine? 

There are some exemptions to the UK border rules which can apply to some veterinary surgeons. Note that being classed as a key worker does not automatically qualify you as exempt from the quarantine rules.

The quarantine requirements and exemptions are different for each of the regions of the UK, and depend on whether you are returning from a Green, Amber or Red list country:

England – Official Veterinarians and vets working in the food supply chain fall into the category of ‘Specialist technical workers – goods and services’ and may qualify for exemption from quarantine. Other vets (eg companion animal vets) are not exempt. Quarantine exemptions are different depending on whether the country you are returning from is on the Green, Amber or Red list. Please refer to the full list of exemptions and requirements on the government website.

Wales - There are exemptions in place for certain veterinary professionals, including those involved in the production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods; those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of clinical trials; and those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of quality assurance. Quarantine exemptions are different depending on whether the country you are returning from is on the Green, Amber or Red list. Please refer to the full list of exemptions and requirements on the Welsh government website.

Scotland- If you arrive from a country on the Amber list, veterinary professionals undertaking certain specific roles are only allowed to leave isolation if you are taking part in an essential activity: those involved in the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods (vets working in the food supply chain); qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations, and human pharmacovigilance; and quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines.

You must self-isolate when you are not at, or travelling to and from, a place where you are required to work.

Please refer to the full list of exemptions and requirements on the Scottish Government website

Northern Ireland - The categories of veterinary professionals exempt from quarantine mirror those exempt for England, namely Official Veterinarians and vets working in the food supply chain, who fall into the category of ‘Specialist technical workers – goods and services’. Quarantine exemptions are different depending on whether the country you are returning from is on the Green, Amber or Red list. Please refer to the full list of exemptions and requirements on the NI government website.

In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work and personal situation.

Government support for businesses

Has the Job Retention Scheme (furlough scheme) been extended?

Employers across the UK are eligible for the extended Job Retention Scheme (the furlough scheme). The furlough scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021 and the level of grant available to employers under the scheme will stay the same until 30 June 2021.

Businesses will have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time.

The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 and employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions only for the hours the employee does not work. Employers are still able to choose to top up employee wages above the scheme grant at their own expense if they wish. You will need to pay for employer National Insurance contributions and pension costs. Find out more information on employer contributions to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees’ wages.

You can be furloughed if caring responsibilities arising from Coronavirus (COVID-19) mean you are unable to work (including from home) or are required to work reduced hours. This includes caring for children who are at home as a result of school or childcare facilities closing. If you are in this situation you should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.

The previously announced Jobs Retention Bonus (JRB) will not be paid in February.

Further details are available on the HMRC website.

What if I am a locum or self-employed?

There is a separate Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) for the self-employed or members of a partnership. This has been extended to September 2021. Anyone previously ineligible who filed a tax return in 2019-20 will now be able to claim for the first time. Full details of this extension are expected soon. 

The government will provide taxable SEISS grants to support those experiencing reduced demand due to COVID-19 but are continuing to trade, or temporarily cannot trade.

For more information, see the HMRC website

What support is there for veterinary businesses?

The government has set out a package of measures to support businesses through this period. There are some different schemes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Veterinary practices may be able to access:

  • The Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Medicines

Can I prescribe without seeing the patient?

Under normal circumstances, this is not permitted by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct. However, during the pandemic, RCVS Council has agreed a temporary departure from this position. Read the RCVS guidelines.

What medicines can be posted?

The Post Office provides guidance on what prescription medicines can be sent through the post for medical purposes.

Vulnerable groups

I’m pregnant. What are the risks and what are my rights?

Pregnant people are in the vulnerable group designated by government and are advised to socially distance themselves and receive Statutory Sick Pay on the production of a fit note. Reg.16 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 imposes a duty on employers to conduct a risk assessment if working conditions could involve risk to a new or expectant mother or their baby. If the assessment reveals any risk to an employee, or their baby, the employer must follow a series of steps to ensure that they are not exposed to the risk or damaged by it. Given that government advice is for pregnant workers to work from home where possible, your employer should take all steps to make this possible.

It may be possible for you to do some work from home, for example triaging calls. BVA members can also speak to the legal advice line, which is a free of charge service available 24/7. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provides detailed advice on pregnancy and Covid-19.

Students

I’m concerned I may not be able to fulfil my EMS requirements due to Covid-19 restrictions, what should I do?

We know it’s a worrying time for veterinary students, and that Covid-19 restrictions are preventing some students from completing their EMS placements. You should speak directly to your school about your own situation. Each school is live to these concerns and will be able to advise as appropriate.

Read the VSC statement on schools’ responses to Covid-19.

Mental Health

How do I protect my mental wellbeing at this difficult time?

Take a look at the Vetlife website for tips on self-care and read the Vetlife Covid-19 FAQs for the veterinary community. Charities such as Mind also have helpful tips on maintaining positive mental wellbeing. The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative is also offering a range of online wellbeing resources to support the veterinary team.

What do I do if I have a concern about my own, or a colleague’s mental health?

Take a look at the Vetlife website for tips on dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. If you need to speak to someone in confidence Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, on 0303 040 2551 or you can send an anonymous email via the website. Support is also available via Vet Support NI and Vet Support Scotland.

Animal owners and breeders

Are vet practices open?

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.

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 face masks 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.

 Can my pet contract coronavirus and pass it to humans?

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.

NOTE: There is now a legal obligation to report the presence of Covid-19 in all mammals other than man. Your vet will let you know if this is what they need to do.

How should I care for my pets if I have symptoms of or have confirmed Covid-19?

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.

What is the updated advice 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 day 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 EnglandWalesScotlandand 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. 

Can I get my new puppy or kitten?

If you’re considering getting a pet at this time, we recommend that you carefully read the Puppy Contract or Kitten Checklist to reflect on whether you can meet their welfare needs beyond lockdown, and that any pet is suitable for your or your family’s lifestyle in the long-term.

Read the up to date Guidance from the Canine and Feline Sector Group for animal related businesses and local authorities in England to find out the latest guidance on handing over animals safely.

What fees should my practice be charging over this period?

RCVS supporting guidance notes that a veterinary surgeon is entitled to charge a fee for the provision of services. Provision of services includes remote consultation and you should expect to be charged for a consultation with your vet even if it’s provided by phone/video. Fees charged during this period might change to reflect the costs associated with providing an essential service under social distancing requirements. As always, all pricing practices should comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and other consumer protection legislation. Clients should be provided with clear and easy to understand information about how fees are calculated and what is being charged for.

What about Canine Health Schemes?

CHS is currently experiencing a significant backlog of hip and elbow submissions due to the impact of the national lockdowns. The CHS team are processing and scoring submissions weekly by date received order. They are unable to estimate turnaround times at present but will update the CHS webpages as soon as possible. They are unable to fast-track any submissions

Payment can only be taken once the submission has been received, so please wait for at least four weeks before calling to make payment.

To make a payment by card for postal submissions, please call the office on 020 7098 6380.

When calling please provide the following information:

  • Date of radiography
  • Kennel Club/microchip number
  • Name of the veterinary practice