Vet Q&A: Can pets catch Coronavirus?

by PDSA | 5 March #VetQ&As

The spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) is now having a direct impact on everyone’s daily lives, following the most recent instructions from the Government. So it’s no surprise a lot of pet owners are worried for their four-legged friends. We’ve been answering some of your questions.

The good news is, current advice from the World Health Organisation and British Veterinary Association is that there’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or that they can become sick from COVID-19.

We encourage all pet owners to take sensible precautions, and follow the latest guidelines. We’ll also be keeping this page updated as the situation evolves.

 

I've heard that pets can catch Covid-19, is this true?

We understand that there have been a very small number of pets across the world that tested positive for Covid-19. We're also aware of a limited study just released from Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China where a very small number of animals were deliberately exposed to high doses of the virus in an artificial setting. However, there are concerns with the methodology used, so any findings are to be interpreted with caution, and there is still no evidence that animals can transmit the virus to humans.

Obviously this is still a very new and fast-moving situation, and until more is known it's sensible to take precautions, such as washing your hands thoroughly after stroking, feeding or cleaning up after your pet. We have more advice on pet care during this time.

 

I am self-isolating, can my pet stay with me?

Yes, in most cases your pet can stay with you, however, it’s advised to avoid close contact, such as sharing a bed. Wash your hands after touching and feeding your pet, and it’s always a good idea to avoid letting them lick your face or share your food. Read our guidance for pet owners on this.

 

Can I still take my dog out for a walk?

Yes, latest Government guidance allows for one walk per day for each person, as long as social distance is maintained between people and dogs. If two adults live in the same home, then they could each walk the dog separately, ensuring the dog gets two walks a day. You must practice social distancing though, and keep at least two metres away from other people. Keep your dog on a lead around others and in public places and thoroughly wash your hands before leaving, and as soon as you get home again.

Dogs can be let out in the garden, or taken out to the toilet as needed. If you don’t have a private garden, just make sure these trips are as quick as possible and ensure you maintain your social distance.

 

Does my pet need to wear a mask?

No, putting a mask on your pet isn’t something we’d recommend. Wearing a face mask could be distressing for pets and may affect their ability to breathe normally, particularly in flat-faced breeds. To help stop the virus spreading, make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap (especially before and after handling your pet and their food).

 

Can pets spread Coronavirus?

The virus is most commonly passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing. There is evidence that the virus can live on surfaces for some time, depending on the type of material, temperature and other factors. This could include your pet’s fur, so if you are showing any symptoms it’s important to minimise contact with your pet as much as possible.

You should also maintain good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, especially after handling or feeding your pet. It’s always sensible to avoid letting your pet lick your face.

There is no need to give up or quarantine pets and we would urge owners not to panic. Pets can be a great source of comfort, and a daily dog walk (following the guidelines above) will be a good thing for everyone’s physical and mental health.

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What should I do if my pet starts coughing and sneezing?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that dogs and cats can become ill from the COVID-19 virus. Check out our Pet Health Hub for information on the COVID-19 virus and the risk to our pets.

If you notice any signs of illness in your pet we would advise calling your vet as usual in the first instance. They will advise you on the best course of action based on your circumstances, but please be aware that most vet practices will be operating very differently from usual. Please don't take your pet to a vet practice unannounced and bear with your local vet practice as they work to follow Government guidance in this unprecedented situation.

You can also access our online symptom checker.

 

As a pet owner, what can I do to help prevent the spread of the virus?

Please follow the latest Government advice and stay at home, and dog owners should follow our walking advice above.

Following good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently, especially before and after leaving the house for essentials, and handling or feeding pets, also helps to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

 

What if I can’t leave the house but my pet needs veterinary care or a prescription?

It’s best to give your vet a call to discuss your situation and see how they may be able to help. Do be aware that many vet practices may have additional procedures in place, and may need to prioritise emergencies in the current situation. The veterinary profession is doing everything possible to ensure essential and emergency services can be maintained during this difficult time, within Government guidance.

 

Is it true that hand sanitisers/anti-bac gel is poisonous to dogs?

We are aware of a false post being shared on social media that suggests hand sanitisers contain Ethylene Glycol, a chemical that is found in antifreeze and is extremely toxic to pets. This isn’t true - hand sanitisers contain ‘ethanol’ (alcohol), not ethylene glycol. Ethanol (alcohol) can be harmful if ingested in a large quantity (i.e. an entire bottle), but it evaporates quickly and IS NOT HARMFUL if it’s licked in small quantities from your skin, or your pet’s fur. Please do not let this false information put you off using hand sanitiser products at this critical time.

 

For more information and advice for pet owners during this outbreak, please visit our page.

You can view the latest Government advice online or on the NHS website.

 

Last updated: 6 April 2020

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