Pets and coronavirus: everything you need to know

Our pets are beloved family members, and vital parts of our households. So it's only natural that we want to know how coronavirus could affect them. But, can cats and dogs get Covid-19? Should pets be kept inside? Are animals at risk from the virus? And could our pets be implicated in the global spread? Our vet, Dr Scott will be answering all the questions on your mind - plus he'll be explaining how to keep your pets happy in isolation.

Can you catch coronavirus from your pet?

The World Health Organisation issued updated information on Thursday 13th March saying: "At present there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can spread coronavirus or indeed be infected with it in the same way as humans."

Dr Scott says: “This specific type of coronavirus cannot be picked up by dogs or cats. There is a different type of strain of coronavirus that they can get, but that has been around for years and is nothing to worry about.”

Can the virus be spread from touching animals?

To avoid any risk of your dog or cat carrying the virus on its fur, the World Organisation for Animal Health advises hand washing 'before and after being around animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.'

Dr Scott says: "It is possible pets can carry the virus on their fur but the good thing about the virus is that it doesn't last very long outside the body. However that being said, social-distancing is key here as it's good to avoid stroking other people's pets during this current situation.”

Will I be able to take my dog for a walk?

Dr Scott says: “At the moment during the period of social-distancing, yes you can still walk your dog as long as you are at least two metres away from another person and their dog. If and when the country goes into lockdown, that might change. But I suggest getting as much exercise in whilst you can with your dog while following protocol.”

Should I restrict my cat from going outside?

Dr Scott says: "For now, still allow your cat to roam outside freely, however maybe be a little more mindful when they come back in the house by wiping them down, including their paws. There are non-toxic, antiviral wipes that humans use that you can also use on your pets. If you are in the high-risk group, then it might be wise to keep your cat indoors if you can for the time being.”

What if I have been diagnosed with the virus?

Dr Scott says: "Ideally, someone else would walk your dog but most small or medium-sized dogs will be ok in the garden for half an hour each day. Some dogs can find this hard but you can keep them happy at home with sniffing, chewing and playing. Even feeding them meals in an empty cereal box rather than a bowl will break up the day for them."

Entertaining your pets in isolation

There are lots of ways to ensure your pet is well cared for even if you're stuck at home. If you are showing symptoms for the virus and have to stay indoors, if possible, arrange for another person to care for your pet - you could consider using a dog walker.

Dr Scott says: “As important as it is for your pet to stay physically healthy, mental health is also key and there are plenty of ways to keep them busy whilst indoors. The silver lining by doing this is that it'll also help fight loneliness and depression as pet owners will be spending more time interacting with their animals.”

Dogs1. Have a treasure hunt with treats2. Continue to play games such as tug of war or fetch. This can still be done indoors. 3. Build a cosy doggy den for them to play in with their toys. 4. Teach them new tricks.

CatsCats still need access outdoors or to a clean litter tray, and outdoor cats can go in and out as normal until the government says otherwise. 1. Play games with your cat such as run and fetch2. Design a new toy for your cat to play with3. Tablet games for cats. You can download apps that feature moving fish and mice to stimulate your cat.

Horses If you own a horse or livestock and keep them on land that is not based at your address, arrange for a friend to care for them until you're able to return to normal, if you have to self-isolate.

Tips for keeping your pets safe

  • Stock up on pet supplies

- Prepare a kit with essential supplies to have on hand in the event of an emergency. Your emergency kit should include a 30-day supply of your pets' medications, as well as at least two weeks' worth of food.

  • Practise good hygiene

- If you haven't tested positive or been asked to self-isolate then continue to interact with your pets as normal but adopt good hygiene practices including washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching them, their food, toys and bedding.

  • Limit physical contact

- Again, avoid being kissed or licked and sharing food with your pet

  • Be mindful when going on walks

- If you are social-distancing, then Government advice states that you can go for a walk as long as you stay two metres away from others.

  • Phone your vet for advice.

- If you have any concerns about your pet or your pet shows signs of ill health, some practices are still open. If you're showing symptoms, then please do not visit the vet but phone for advice. We are still able to hold consultations over the phone.