Border collie dog self isolating

Self Isolating with a Cat or Dog

Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives. Anxiety levels have increased as we wait to see how this global pandemic will affect our loved ones, our livelihoods, and the wider world. Pets have a calming influence on us and can help to reduce our blood pressure and heart rate in times of distress. Not that we any more reason to enjoy extra cuddles and playtime with our furry friends. Enjoy having more time at home to spend with your pet, they will likely be delighted to see you around the house more often.

Can I catch COVID-19 from my cat or dog?

The WHO currently states that there is no known danger of pets spreading COVID-19, spread is predominantly from human to human.  Whilst there have been a few highlighted cases where the virus was found to be present on animals, these animals were in close contact with their infected owners.  The virus found on them was likely shed from their owners, the pets themselves did not show any of the clinical symptoms related to the human disease. 

Whilst it is good news that there is no evidence that pets can themselves become ill or multiply the virus within themselves, there is still the danger that they can carry the virus with them from an infected human source.  For this reason, we should treat stroking someone else’s dog or cat as the equivalent to shaking hands with all members of that pet’s household. Something that should be avoided if possible and followed by thorough hand washing. 

Should I still allow my cat to go outside?

As a pet owner, you should aim to act responsibly in order to reduce the likelihood of your pets coming into contact with people from outside your household.  If you have a suspected case of COVID-19 in your home, the British Veterinary Association recommend keeping cats indoors. Keeping your cat indoors could prevent them from carrying the virus with them when they visit your vulnerable elderly neighbour for extra fusses.

A cat that is used to having access to the outdoors might find it distressing to be restricted, you can try to release some of that adventurous spirit by setting up food obstacle courses, playing with toys or laser pens. If keeping your cat indoors is not feasible, continue to follow strict hand hygiene before and after handling them. 

Ensure your cat has a refuge in your home where they can escape from a now busier household. An extra litter tray, bed and water bowl in a quiet area of your home will help your cat to have some private time to unwind. 

Can I still take my dog for a walk?

Each adult in a household is allowed out for one form of exercise per day. Depending on how much exercise your dog needs, this should allow the opportunity to fulfil your dog’s exercise requirement. Social distancing should be maintained at all times.  

Where possible you should walk your dog on a leash, this will help to reduce the chance of them wandering up to strangers, making social distancing more difficult. Being on a leash will also reduce the chances of road traffic accidents, dog fights or other mishaps. We should do everything we can to reduce interaction with others, including our veterinarian.  Vets are still providing emergency care if you need it. In some areas practices have joined forces to keep one centre open for emergencies in order to protect their clients and staff. 

When choosing where to go for a walk, just be sensible. If you turn up to your usual dog walking area and there are lots of cars and people around, maintaining social distancing will become more difficult and therefore you should seek to go elsewhere. 

What do I do with my pets if I am ill?

If you are sick with COVID-19 the WHO advice is to limit contact with all animals, including your pets, until we understand more about the virus. Where possible people who are sick with COVID-19 should allow another member of their household to care for the pets. If there is no choice but to look after your pets yourself good hygiene practices should be used before and after time interacting. 

It is best to be prepared for potential self-isolation or hospitalisation, speak to your family about arranging care for your pet and have some supplies of food and medication ready.

Stay safe. Stay home.

If you know of any pet owners that might be considering venturing out to stock up on flea and worm treatments, let them know about Protect My Pet. You can share the code STAYSAFE to give them 25% off their first three boxes at www.protect-mypet.com. 

*Guidance taken from British Veterinary Association (BVA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) on 2nd March 2020

Self isolating cat playing with toy

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS

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