The UK has now officially been in lockdown for just over a week, and every man and his dog is self-isolating at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Thankfully for us pet owners, it so far hasn’t had too much impact on our little bundles of fur and their day to day life, as let’s be honest, they spend almost all of their time indoors anyway!
However with things like food supplies and health care being heavily effected by the virus, many of us are still beginning to worry about how are pets might cope with restrictions over the coming weeks and potentially next few months.
No one said this self-isolation business was going to be a walk in the park, and it’s getting so complicated and strict that it wouldn’t be a surprise if walking in the park was soon declared a dangerous disease spreader too.
It’s therefore understandable that people are growing more concerned about the future, especially when it comes to providing self-isolation care for their critters, and dealing with the problems they might or are already facing.
So to help clue you up about Covid 19 and how to cope with it, we’ve done our best to compile a comprehensive self-isolation care guide for pets, filled with all the need-to-know information to get you and your tyke, tabby or tweeter through the pandemic.
But before we start, let’s answer those big questions on every pet owner’s lips…
Can Coronavirus Infect Pets?
No! There is currently no evidence that domestic animals can become infected with the disease Covid 19 or further spread it to other people.
This means you don’t need to worry about cuddling or playing with your pet during these difficult times if you’re still fit and healthy, and in fact, we’d outrightly encourage it, as nothing will raise your endorphins and de-stress you better than the love of an animal!
General advice however does still seem to suggest you should be more diligent with your hygiene around domestic pets during lockdown. But this merely means washing your hands after handling them, and avoiding sharing food and being licked or kissed by them.
Hopefully you can manage that at the very least!
Do I Need To Self-Isolate From My Pet If I Have Coronavirus?
If you believe you have the symptoms of coronavirus or are outrightly suffering from it, then current advice suggests that you should try and restrict contact between you and your pet.
Again we will reiterate, this is not because there is any evidence companion animals can contract the disease, but while the virus is still very much in its infancy where information or knowledge is concerned, it’s best to to just restrict contact with humans and animals until more is known.
There is still the possibility that the virus could live on pets fur for a short period after an ill person pets them, in the same way it can live on the surfaces they touch. It’s for this reason we are advised to wash our hands before and after handling a pet.
If you are ill, another member of your home should ideally take up all duties which involve caring for your pet, maintaining good hygiene practices such as hand washing and regular cleaning of bowls and bedding etc.
If this is not an option, make sure you are especially rigorous when it comes to a hand washing routine around your pet, and if possible wear a face mask when interacting with them.
For more advice and information on dealing with pets and the coronavirus itself, visit our article on the subject here: https://www.petz.uk/pets-coronavirus-advice/
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the guide…
Self-Isolation Care Guide For Pets
Even if you’re not suffering from coronavirus or particularly worried about it, the event of lockdown itself is a troublesome wedge in your pet’s normal caregiving routine.
Being unable to go places and get advice and help from others can get in the way of your pet’s health and happiness, and so it’s only natural to be a little concerned.
But try not to fret too much, as if you stay calm and start adapting to life in lockdown, your pet will hopefully never have to experience the potential negative effects of self-isolation…
Staying in Stock & Dealing With Panic Buying
A big issue pet owners seem to be having at the moment is worrying if they have enough of everything they need to get their pet through the next few months.
While most animals just need food and water, depending on your pet, providing basic care could also mean having enough bedding or substrate, as well as any personal medications they need to improve quality of life.
Unfortunately, getting hold of some of these items has been difficult, as the country has suffered greatly from depleted supermarkets in the last month.
Public reactions to the pandemic have resulted in panic buying and hysteria, and so nabbing your furry friend a tin of food has suddenly become something of a struggle.
But the only way to help yourself and others is to try and keep supermarket stocks up by not planning too far ahead. Because filling your baskets up with food for months down the line is the kind of mentality that causes us to panic buy, even if we don’t realise we are doing it.
Instead, try to purchase things at the same rate you normally would, because as things stand, supermarkets are still open, and so unless getting to and from the shops is too difficult for you, there’s no reason why you can’t maintain a regular shopping schedule of once per week.
If certain products are still difficult to get your hands on, you should also be exploring online delivery options to try and find exactly what you’re looking for. Online shopping is your best bet for certain products like substrate and medication anyway, and doing it helps to lessen the impact on supermarkets.
Consider Home Cooked Food
If getting your hands on pet food is proving particularly difficult, perhaps consider cooking them a home made diet with the ‘human’ food that you can get your hands on.
It’s perfectly suitable to feed your cat or dog things like skinless and boneless, lean chicken or turkey, ground or cubed beef, salmon and other types of fish, as well as whole grains, like brown rice, wheat, couscous, oatmeal, and quinoa.
There are plenty of homemade doggy diets to be found online which ensure they receive all the proper nutrition you would expect from a classic pouch, tin or kibble and they’ll also give you something to do on these boring days shut up in the house.
We would recommend doing this only when finding pet food is really becoming a struggle, as it can obviously be expensive feeding your dog on a home made diet.
But when things are desperate, there’s no reason for your pup or kitty to starve!
Just make sure to heavily research what commonly eaten human foods can be harmful for pets before making anything, as the most surprising ingredients can often end up making them sick!
Sick Pets & Vet Trips
A suitable concern for a lot of pet owners is what to do if they suspect their pet is suffering from an illness.
With lockdown still in place for the next few weeks, and likely to be extended further into April, how are we meant to help our poor animals out?
While veterinary practices are still open to treat pets in an emergency, they won’t be offering face-to-face consultations for less serious symptoms.
In a best case scenario, some vets might offer over the phone advice and others video consultations to give advice on treatment of lesser health issues but unfortunately, this really is the best type of service they can offer right now.
Therefore, it’s important you don’t attempt to take your pet to a veterinary clinic before contacting them by phone for advice first. If they believe your pet desperately needs to be seen by a professional, they will ask you to bring them to the clinic.
Please be understanding of the limitations that have been placed on vets by the government.
If they don’t believe your pet needs to be seen, then there is most likely nothing seriously wrong with them.
And if they don’t need to be seen, you will almost certainly be given guidance on how to best treat your animal at home.
As vets are now only open for emergency cases, it means they have decided to suspend vaccinations and delay scheduled ones.
Therefore it’s important to take extra care with an unvaccinated animal, as they may not be able to receive their vaccines for some time.
For unvaccinated puppies who are yet to receive their full course, they need to be kept at a distance from other dogs, and avoid areas where foxes and dogs may have been. In the main, this means avoiding parks, waterways and woodlands to keep your pup healthy. However try not to let this impact on their key socialisation, they can still be taken for walks and experience outside life, just try and keep a safe 2 metre distance from other dog walkers.
For unvaccinated kittens, it is unfortunately a slightly more risky situation to let them venture outside without their full course of boosters. Until all their pending vaccinations are completed, it’s safest to keep them indoors to eradicate potential risks to their health.
So prepare to raise yourself a house cat over the next few weeks!
Adult dogs and cats are slightly different and often have a three-month leeway after their booster is due, while the protection offered for some diseases is even longer.
However, immunity to leptospirosis or Weil’s disease can diminish after 15 months and so if their booster for these illnesses is overdue or needed in the next few weeks, it might be an idea to avoid watercourses where rats may have been.
As for horses, all equine vaccinations have been postponed for the time being, which may have an effect on your horse’s eligibility for competitions if this means they will miss a scheduled round of vaccines.
Depending on how lockdown lasts for, this may mean they will have to restart their rounds of vaccinations again from the beginning for them to be effective, which may or may not be a costly process depending on how your equine vet decides to respond to the pandemic.
It’s important not to be too worried about your horse missing a flu vaccination though, as there are currently no active equine flu outbreaks in the UK. Also, the lack of equestrian competitions taking place ensures your horse is not mixing with unfamiliar horses, reducing the chance of equine flu breaking out anyway!
If your horse has not been vaccinated for tetanus however, ensure you call a vet should they sustain a wound in the next few weeks, as the animal will need to be treated with anti-tetanus shots.
For a more thorough guide on horse vaccination schedules and their effect on future competitions, see the Rossdale veterinary surgeon report on coronavirus and equine vaccines.
Neutering & Spaying
Neutering/spaying is yet another procedure vets have been advised to suspend or delay during the initial lockdown period.
For dogs this is not necessarily an issue, as owners don’t tend to let their pups wander off on their own, and the advice to keep at a safe distance from other dog walkers and owners means the likelihood of a female dog getting pregnant is extremely low.
Cats, however, tend to roam around on their own, and are much more likely to come into contact with strays or unneutered tabbys while off on their adventures.
We therefore highly recommend keeping female kittens who are still not spayed indoors to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Cats can become pregnant at as young as 4 months of age so don’t think your brand new kitty isn’t at risk!
Commonly Asked Questions
Can I Walk My Dog During Lockdown?
For more in-depth information on the rules about walking your dog, visit our article on the subject here: https://www.petz.uk/dog-walking-coronavirus-guide/
Can My Cat Go Outside?
As long as your cat is not an unvaccinated kitten, they should be safe to continue their normal routine of going outside.
Keeping them inside and disrupting their normal adventures out the house can cause stress and make them ill, so it’s best to allow them to live their life as normal.
Can I Travel To Feed My Horse?
According to The British Horse Society, sole carers or grooms of a horse should still travel to stables as much as possible to care for their mares.
Keeping your horse fed, watered and groomed is of paramount importance to their welfare, and if you don’t do it – who will?!
In cases where horses are kept in a livery, it’s advised that horse owners respect the current guidance and rules being put in place by the yard owner in regards to the virus.
Make sure to contact them and work together to determine the best course of action when it comes to caring for your animal.
Can I Still Ride My Horse?
As you might expect, the government’s guidelines on what you can and can’t do don’t explicitly mention attitudes to horse riding, as well as a number of other outdoor activities.
However there seems to be a general consensus that the only forms of outdoor activity should be basic exercise such as running, walking or cycling, to be done once per day.
The BHS advises you to consider how necessary riding is at this time and to remember that such activities have the risk of putting unneeded extra pressure on our national health service.