Companion Animals and COVID-19
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. Small animals that can contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, include dogs, cats, ferrets, rodents including hamsters, primates and white-tailed deer. There is growing evidence that mink, cats, white-tailed deer and hamsters can spread the virus through close contact with their own species in captivity.
The limited evidence available at present suggests that coronavirus may pass from infected humans to certain pets as mentioned above following close contact or sharing their equipment or airspace.
Animal fur can act as a carrier (known as fomite transmission) for the virus that causes COVID-19 for short periods of time, in the same way as other surfaces.
Ferrets are known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. As a precautionary measure, government advice is that ferret owners should isolate their ferret for 21 days if:
Isolation means avoiding contact with either ferrets or people from other households.
If the ferret needs emergency veterinary care, the owner can arrange to have it taken to the vet but should notify staff of the situation before visiting the practice.
Detailed information is available here.
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
For further advice from governments across the UK to pet owners on the current UK status covering COVID-19 & pets and also, specific advice on ferrets, please see our section on ‘Government advice for Pet Owners’ here. Please ensure you regularly check for any updates to Government advice.
British Veterinary Association
A range of COVID-19 resources are available from the British Veterinary Association –
Updated guidance issued by BVA (03/21) is available here. It is intended to support veterinary practices in moving to a more normal range of veterinary services, in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions. It recognises that that each individual veterinary practice will need to make changes to their service provision at their own pace and that practices will need to work in line with national and devolved legislation and local guidance. It will remain in place for as long as necessary and will be updated as the governments update their guidance on safe working. This BVA guidance is supplementary to the RCVS guidance, which is regularly reviewed and updated in line with legislative changes.
BVA have made the following advice for veterinary practises for dealing with behaviour cases.
You can find the links to all of the BVA webinars for COVID-19 and the veterinary profession here.
RCVS Knowledge – COVID-19 resources here
SPVS – COVID-19 resources here.
NOAH – Information on supply of veterinary medicines can be found here.
VMD – News and guidance about the impact of COVID-19 on veterinary medicines related issues are available from VMD. Information covers the availability of authorised veterinary medicines, arrangements for inspections, and also, changes affecting veterinary practices and prescriptions. The latter covers the temporary relaxation of the enforcement of specific provisions of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) 2013. All updates are available here.
Test and Trace for Veterinary Practices
Government contact tracing programmes that have been launched across the UK are intended to avoid blanket national lockdown restrictions and facilitate local lockdown situations that manage spread of the virus. Each of the four nations have launched separate programmes and veterinary staff are advised to check their local, country systems for relevant details.
Government has made some provision for the work of veterinary professionals. If you are identified as having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but at that time you were wearing the minimum required PPE e.g. (gloves, apron, a fluid repellent surgical face mask and eye protection), you may be considered to have had adequate protection against transmission and may not need to self-isolate. However, given that in many circumstances where veterinary workers are identified as contacts, this will be not have been whilst wearing the minimum required PPE therefore it is likely you will be advised to self-isolate. To ascertain what you need to do in such situations and whether vaccination status and daily testing can have an impact on required actions, please call the National Covid helpline on 0800 028 2816 to obtain advice relevant to your individual circumstances.
The RCVS has provided advice here.
It is also advisable that you refer to your employer’s protocols in the first instance.
General information on Track and Trace in the four nations is available below:
For England here
For Scotland here
For Wales here
For Northern Ireland here
For information on the NHS Covid-19 Test and Trace App in England and Wales please see information available here.
Please continue to adhere to Government guidelines on good hygiene and social distancing. Relevant BSAVA resources can be found in our sections on ‘Good Hygiene and Social Distancing’ and ‘Practice Staff & RCVS Guidance’.
Testing pets for SARS-CoV-2 & International & Legal Reporting Obligations
The detection of infection with SARS-CoV-2 in animals meets the criteria for reporting emerging infections to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) (of which the UK is a member country). Whilst SARS-CoV-2 is currently not a notifiable disease in animals in the UK (or EU), vets in practice have a professional obligation to report any positive test results to the competent authority to support the UK’s international reporting obligations to the OIE. From the week commencing 22nd February 2021 there is a legal obligation in England and Scotland to report the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in mammals. Wales and Northern Ireland also intend to introduce similar legislation shortly thereafter to make SARS-CoV-2 reportable. Please check the status of the country within which you are working for the latest updates.
Globally only a small number of cases of naturally acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals have been reported. Human-to-human transmission is still considered the main route of disease spread. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in pets should only be undertaken where it is in the interest of the health and welfare of the pet.
Based on existing scientific knowledge, the UK Government advises that private testing should only be considered in pets which meet all four criteria set out in the case definition and that oropharyngeal and rectal swabs are the only suitable specimen types. Testing undertaken at private laboratories should be based on the detection of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in animals via PCR (typically RT-qPCR) or an equivalent assay.
In the event of a positive test result, vets in practice are asked to make clients and diagnostic laboratories aware of certain actions required by Defra. All information should be handled with appropriate confidentiality.
Further information on the background to testing of pets and the detailed requirements vets in small animal practice should fulfil when undertaking testing or reporting results, are available in APHA Briefing Note 09/21 available here.
To support vets in small animal practice, BSAVA has produced guidance on the differential diagnoses that should be considered in deciding whether to test a pet for COVID-19. The guidance should be used only in conjunction with the full APHA Briefing Note. Please note that the BSAVA guidance is advisory and veterinary surgeons should exercise their own professional judgement based on individual circumstances. BSAVA Guidance is available here.
Please see additional Government guidance for vets in practice on management of pets in need of examination or treatment which are from a household with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, in APHA Briefing Note 10/20 available on the APHA Vet Gateway
Please see RCVS advice on testing for SARS-CoV-2 in the RCVS’s FAQs (Question 22) on COVID-19 here
ABCD – A detailed veterinary resource that answers common questions on COVID-19 and cats can be found here.
The Links Group -The Links Group are there to help raise awareness of the link between the abuse of people and animals through support, training and inter-agency working. See their website here.
VDS Advice on policy cover during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here. If you need bespoke advice please contact VDS on 01565 652737 or e-mail email@example.com
A number of free webinars have also been made available to provide support for all veterinary staff and students, including ‘Sunday Surgeries’ for vets, RVNs and the wider practice team; ‘Wednesday Wellness’ for veterinary students; and a webinar to support vets new to remote consulting.
SAVSNET are aiming to help practitioners through data collected from contributing veterinary practices and veterinary diagnostic laboratories and to support this aim have released a specific report detailing the impact of COVID-19 social distancing measures on the following key areas of companion animal practice – consultation volumes, vaccination, telemedicine and vaccine preventable disease. The report can be accessed here. This is the first of regularly released reports and whilst it is primarily intended to be a source of evidence-based support for practitioners, it may assist policymakers and practice group leaders when making broader decisions too. As time goes on, SAVSNET intend to further develop these reports. SAVSNET works in partnership with BSAVA and BBSRC and if you would like to contribute data from your practice to SAVSNET, please visit their website to find out more here.
Pet insurance and claims
Currently (08/04/20) The Association of British Insurers (ABI) advice for pet insurance policies during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here.
If a pet owner or practice client has a pet insurance policy underwritten by RSA including those by John Lewis, >Than, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, RSA advises that policy holders visit the retailer’s website for further information here.
Availability of Medical Gases
Currently (08/04/20) there is no indication that there is a shortage of available medical gases. In preparation for an escalation of COVID-19 cases, BOC has been building stocks of medical gases, where able, to ensure their supply chain is in the best possible position to respond to customer requirements. BOC has now implemented a ‘Full for Empty’ supply of all medical cylinder gases to ensure that supplies can be maintained and fairly distributed to all customers.
Customers with medical oxygen are being encouraged to manage their cylinders in an effective manner and ensure that empty cylinders are available promptly for collection and reprocessing by BOC. An increased frequency of deliveries and collections is available to assist with cylinder turnover. Customers are asked to be vigilant and ensure that medical gas cylinders are kept as secure as possible to deter potential misuse or theft. BSAVA understands that if a practice is closed for the foreseeable future, BOC will collect cylinders free of charge. For further information individuals can call BOC’s Customer Information Centre on 0800 111 333. Further information is available here.
Potential use of Propofol by NHS
There have been anecdotal reports that veterinary practices might be approached by the NHS or DHSC to discuss requests for propofol intended for use in supporting safe mechanical ventilation when treating patients for COVID-19. BSAVA has liaised with VMD to ascertain the validity of these reports. It has been confirmed that DHSC has not initiated a call directly or indirectly to requisition veterinary medicines. There are ongoing cross-Government discussions between relevant Departments to assess the potential for VMPs to be used in an emergency for human use however, to date this work in incomplete.
Whilst no call has been made by DHSC (as of 09/04/20), if at any point a veterinary practice is approached with a request to release propofol to DHSC, please keep in mind some important information outlined below which has been produced by BSAVA and AVA President, Carl Bradbrook, working closely together. The information is intended to ensure no human lives are unintentionally put at risk.
- There are different formulations of propofol some of which can be fatal if applied for human use. In particular, some preservatives such as benzyl alcohol must not be applied for use in humans.
- The non-preservative preparations of propofol might be suitable for humans however, it should be for DHSC staff to ascertain and confirm suitability.
- If a veterinary practice is approached, before releasing any propofol to DHSC, it is advisable to always provide the datasheet for DHSC to check it is suitable for human use, especially to confirm it is a preservative free formulation.
- Only transfer propofol after you have written confirmation from DHSC that it is suitable to do so and the formulation is appropriate. Ensure appropriate records are kept of any stock transferred to allow for tracing and eventual replacement.
It is good practice to apply the above principles to any veterinary drugs if you are requested to release them to NHS or DHSC.
Advice to support clients
CFSG has provided Covid-19 related advice for clients, animal related businesses (excluding veterinary practices), and breeders. This includes advice on general pet health, microchipping and behaviour. CFSG information can be found here, and here.
Mental Health and Wellbeing for Practice Staff
Webinar Vet Mental health webinars, including MMI webinars with RCVS, are freely available and can be accessed here.
FECAVA resources on mental health and wellbeing can be found here.
Vet Life Obtain individual advice and support by accessing Vet Life services here.
RCVS Mind Matters Initiative – here.