Currently, the advice from governments across the UK is that there is limited evidence to suggest that companion animals can contract COVID-19 and if they do, they tend to show only mild symptoms and recover within a few days. The evidence available at present 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
In line with public health guidance, Government advice is that you wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding and that you do not share food with your pet.
It is recommended that those who have COVID-19, or are displaying symptoms, should restrict contact with pets and wash their hands thoroughly before and after interacting with their pet and avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating
Pets could act as a fomite (carrier) of the virus on their fur for short periods in the same way that other surfaces can carry the virus from one place to another. However, there is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of coronavirus.
Government advice for pet owners across the UK is available as follows:
Northern Ireland: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-animal-owners#toc-0
Ferrets are known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. If you own a ferret, as a precautionary measure government advice is that you isolate your ferret for 21 days if:
- You or your household are self-isolating
- You have brought your ferret to England or Scotland from a country not on the travel corridor list or, for Wales that you have recently returned with your pet through the Pet Travel Scheme
Isolation means avoiding contact with either ferrets or people from other households. Although it is advised that your ferret isolates for 21 days you only need to isolate for the required 14 days (Dec 2020).
During the isolation period you should ensure the ferret remains within the confines of the household and specifically for Scotland, is kept indoors. You should avoid using it as a working animal, rabbiting, or taking it for walks. If your ferret needs emergency veterinary care, you can arrange to have it taken to the vet but you should notify staff of the situation before visiting the practice.
Advice specific to Scotland and Northern Ireland is that if you have COVID-19 you should wear a facemask and gloves when handling your ferret.
Government advice on ferrets specific to each country in the UK is available as follows:
Northern Ireland: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-animal-owners#toc-3
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) - Advises that people who are ill with COVID-19 should limit close contact with their pet until more is known about the virus. When handling pets, adhere to basic hygiene measures. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food. Further information is here.
World Health Organisation (WHO) - Practices can share their infographic on their websites or on social media to allay any fears clients might have about the virus and their pets. It can be accessed here.
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) - Our global Association’s guidelines are here
Please note: as the situation will vary depending on each country’s situation, not all information will be applicable to the UK
Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) – find updates and resources from FVE here
Federation of Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECVA) - BSAVA's European Association’s guidelines for practices are here and for clients here
Please note: these are general European guidelines and again, not all information will be applicable to the UK situation.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) - AVMA have general resources alongside those specific to their region available here.
Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) - general information from CFSG can be found here and a range of CFSG guidance on COVID-19 can be found here. See COVID-19 resources on top tips about how to look after your pet during the COVID-19 crisis and also, guidance on walking some else’s dog here.
BSAVA Advice to clients
BSAVA has produced advice for clients as to whether or not your pet can be vaccinated or neutered during the COVID-19 crisis. It outlines what to expect when you contact your vet to discuss vaccination or neutering for your pet. Your vet is required to risk-assess each case and apply their professional and clinical judgement when deciding on the best course of action for you and your pet’s individual circumstances whilst keeping in mind government requirements relating to travel and social distancing. Please see vaccination advice here and neutering advice here.
General advice on caring for your puppy, kitten or rabbit is available from BSAVA Petsavers Guides here.
The BSAVA and BVBA have put together a Q&A for pet owners to help them prepare their pets for return to normal life as lockdown eases. The Q&A explains some key behavioural issues that might be encountered by owners and how these can be prevented and managed. Topics include separation-related issues, animals becoming anxious as the world around them becomes busier and noisier, and puppies lacking appropriate skills when greeting animals (including dogs and people) from other households. Please access the Q&A here.
RCVS Advice to clients
RCVS have issued advice for clients that aims to manage client expectations of the services veterinary practices can offer during the current situation. It should help them understand how vets are currently required to prioritise public health and safety, whilst also working to uphold animal health and welfare in extremely challenging circumstances. You can point clients to this advice which is available here.
BVA Advice to clients
The following advice on pet behaviour has been made available from the BVA -
Advice for all clients regarding behavioural changes in their pets
Advice sheets for kitten owners
Advice sheets for puppy owners
CFSG has provided advice for breeders and animal related businesses (excluding veterinary practices) to support them operating in a safe manner to protect the health of their staff and clients. Government is keen to see businesses continue to operate unless they are on the list of explicitly banned businesses and venues. This is subject to businesses complying with the requirements relating to social distancing and hygiene. Further information can be found here and here.
Animal Welfare Network Wales (AWNW) has issued similar information for Wales in their guidance for animal related businesses.
The Kennel Club have issued advice for breeders which you can find here.
CFSG have issued Guidance for companion animal rescue and rehoming organisations which you can find here.
Animal Welfare Network Wales (AWNW) has issued similar information for Wales in their guidance for animal rescue and rehoming organisations.