Vet Q&A: taking care of your pet during lockdown

by PDSA Vets | 24 March 2020 #VetQ&As

As the impact of Covid-19 continues, we know many people have concerns and questions about caring for their pets. Our vets have been answering some FAQs.

There is no evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to people, however, we’re advising pet owners take a few sensible precautions to keep everyone safe. Below, our vets have answered some of your questions, based on the latest official guidance.

Please note that this advice is for people who are not categorised as vulnerable, are not showing any symptoms and have not tested positive for Covid-19. If you are self-isolating, then we have separate advice on this.

Last updated: 21 December


Can I still take my dog for a walk?

Yes, you can still walk your dog as long as you keep a safe distance from other people and dogs. It’s important to be aware of any local restrictions and relevant guidance in place (for instance in areas under localised lockdown).

We suggest you keep your dog on a lead, or under close control in public places, and thoroughly wash your hands before and after your walk.

Your dog can be in your garden, or taken out to the toilet as needed. If you don’t have a private garden, just make sure you maintain your social distance from other people (and pets) in any shared outdoor or public space.


What should I do if I am told to quarantine after travelling to another country?

You are also expected to follow the rules on self-isolation if you travel abroad and are told to quarantine on your return. The specific countries on the quarantine list are subject to change, sometimes at short notice. If you plan to travel abroad, we recommend being prepared that you may have to self-isolate after your return to the UK. Make sure you can arrange for someone to help you look after your pets if needed; remember that if you cannot exercise your dog at home, you will need to ask someone outside of your household to take them for their walks.


Can my cat still go outside?

If nobody in your household has symptoms or tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, then cats that would normally go out can continue to do so. If your cat is happy to stay inside, you can encourage them to stay at home more but make sure you prepare them as changes in a cat’s routine can be stressful for them. You’ll need to make sure they stay entertained and that you recognise any signs of stress indicating that they aren’t comfortable. Read our advice on how to minimise stress and advice on keeping indoor cats active.

It’s important to maintain good hand hygiene with your cat, especially if they are going outside, by washing your hands before and after touching them, their food or any pet related items. We don’t recommend touching cats from other households that come to visit or want to make friends in the street.


Is it safe to stroke other people’s pets?

Although we don’t have any evidence to suggest that pets can spread Covid-19 directly, it’s possible that a pet could have the virus on their fur if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19, just like anything else we touch. The virus is most commonly passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing but there is evidence that it can live on surfaces for some time. The length of time depends on the type of material, temperature and other factors. As this could include a pet’s fur or supplies, we recommend avoiding touching other people’s pets where possible.

If you are caring for someone else’s pets at this time, we would recommend sticking to good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing your hands with soap and hot water, especially after handling or feeding their pets. This is especially important if their owner has symptoms, is self-isolating or is classed as vulnerable. It’s also a good idea to keep good hand hygiene around your own pet, especially if they are cared for or stroked by people outside your household. It’s always sensible to avoid letting your pet lick your face or share your food. We would also recommend that if you are showing any symptoms you try to minimise contact with your pet as much as possible.


Can I still feed stray cats?

Yes, you can continue to feed any stray or community cats that you normally provide for. However, we’d recommend washing your hands thoroughly before and after feeding them, and don’t stroke them or let them into your house.


What if I run out of pet food or other items?

We’d advise making sure you have at least two weeks' of pet supplies at all times, in case you need to self-isolate. If you order pet supplies online, make sure you put in your order in good time as many online retailers may have longer delivery times at the moment. If you need to self-isolate and you’re running out of food which isn’t available online, you could consider asking a friend or neighbour to collect the food and leave it on your doorstep. PDSA’s online shop has a wide selection of pet supplies available.


Can I walk my friend’s dog for them?

Yes, it’s really important to provide support for those who need it at this difficult time, especially for those who are extremely vulnerable.

If you are taking someone’s dog out for them we’d advise taking the following precautions to keep everyone safe:

  • You should both maintain good hygiene – regularly washing hands, especially before and after a handover.
  • Make sure you both keep at least two metres away from each other. A good way to handover is for the owner to put the dog into a contained area first, then the owner to go back inside. The walker can then come in with a different lead and attach this to the dog’s collar for walking.
  • The walker should follow social distancing guidelines while out with the dog – staying two metres away from other people and their pets at all times, and not allowing others to touch the dog.
  • On returning, wipe the dog down with a clean, damp, disposable cloth.

Follow the same handover process as above in reverse – the walker should leave the dog in contained area, remove their lead and move away. The owner can then come out to take their dog back inside.

You can find out more in our detailed dog walking advice.


Can I take my neighbour’s pet to the vet for them?

Yes, if a pet needs urgent care, and their owner is unable to leave the house, we advise someone else takes the pet to the vet for them. It’s important to be aware that many vets are providing other ways to support the pets under their care, for example phone consultations and posting out medications, so for non-urgent problems the vet may be able help your neighbour’s pet in an alternative way that doesn’t require a visit to the vets.

When offering to help, please ensure that the owner has called their vet first and that they have been advised that their pet does need to go for a face to face appointment. It’s also very important the owner lets the vet know if they are self-isolating or have symptoms. It’s a good idea for them to confirm the details and exact time for the appointment and tells the vet that their pet will be being brought in by someone acting on their behalf. When collecting the pet, follow the same handover guidelines as in our dog walking advice, but wipe the pet over immediately after collecting them as well as on the return. Please also be aware that vets will have extra precautions in place to keep everyone safe, so you may be asked to wait in the car or follow different procedures.


My pet requires a special food for an ongoing condition, what if I can’t get this?

If your pet is currently on a prescription food, we’d advise contacting your vet to discuss your options. If you can’t collect the food directly from your vets it may be possible for them to post it to you or they may be able to recommend an online supplier that you can order from.


What if my pet is ill or injured? Will my vet be open?

If your pet falls ill, it’s best to call your vets straight away for help and advice. They will be doing everything possible to ensure essential and emergency services can be maintained while complying with government guidance.

Always contact your vets before going to the practice to check how their service might be affected.

Your vet will have extra precautions in place to keep everyone safe. They might ask you to wait in your car or outside rather than entering the building. You may not be able to accompany your pet for treatment as you previously have done and if you are allowed in the building, you may be required to wear a mask and maintain the two metre social distancing guidance wherever possible. Many vets are offering telephone consultations in the first instance. Please bear with your local vet practice as they work to follow government guidance in this unprecedented situation.


What if my pet has an emergency or needs help outside of usual opening hours?

Vets will do everything they can to continue to provide a 24-hour emergency service as usual, but you may be asked to go to a different practice than normal. Always call first – if you phone your usual vet you will get instructions on how to access their emergency out-of-hours care. Please don’t just turn up at your vet out-of-hours, you may need to go to a different branch or practice and this could delay your pet receiving urgent treatment.


Why isn’t my vet offering vaccinations, neutering, or prescription flea and worming treatments? Isn’t this classed as essential treatment?

At present, many vets are extremely busy helping pets in need of urgent and emergency care, and are seeing a high demand for their services. Many vets are also coping with reduced staff numbers and are only able to allow a small number of clients to attend the practice at one time. The restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak have changed the way that vets are able to work and they are working hard to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams.

Because of all these factors some vets, including PDSA Pet Hospitals, aren’t able to offer routine services to their clients. We understand this is frustrating, but we appreciate your patience during these difficult times. Demands for vet services are very high and we must prioritise our resources for the care of sick and injured patients whilst keeping everyone safe.

If you’re not sure if your vet is able to provide routine appointments, it’s best to contact them directly. They will be able to advise you about their services at this time and offer help where needed.

You can read our information about how to keep your pet safe if they’re not able to be vaccinated or neutered on our Pet Health Hub:

You can find information about the services at our PDSA Pet Hospitals on our service updates page.


My pet needs ongoing medication, how do I ensure I don’t run out?

If you are concerned about a pet that needs medication, call your vet for advice. It’s best to give your vet as much notice as possible to prepare your prescription as they are likely to be very busy helping pets in need of emergency or urgent care and might be operating with reduced numbers of staff. We would recommend keeping at least 14 days of medication at home for your pet in case your vet needs additional time to process their prescription. This will also ensure you have enough medications available if you are required to self-isolate.

In most circumstance you will be able to collect medications, but remember that vets will have extra precautions in place to comply with social distancing, which may include giving you a collection time to avoid large numbers of clients arriving at one time. With certain repeat prescriptions, it may also be possible for them to post or deliver the medications to your home address.


Will my insurance cover my dog if they are not vaccinated during the Covid-19 crisis?

Some owners may be concerned about whether their pet insurance will remain valid if their dog misses a vaccination during the Covid-19 crisis. Every policy is different so we advise you to call your insurance company and check - it’s likely that they will have put some special measures in place during these difficult times.



For more advice on pets and Coronavirus, and for updates on PDSA’s services, visit our pages.


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