First and foremost, there is no evidence to show that animals can pass COVID-19 to humans.
Pets may act as a ‘fomite’ for the virus, meaning that if they come into contact with the virus it may survive for a period of time on their fur – this is more of a concern to veterinary staff when treating animals from COVID-19 positive households. It is advisable however, not to touch animals that do not live with you and to always practice good hand hygiene.
The following information has been compiled by the pharmaceutical company MSD to provide some useful tips on how to keep your pets safe in these unprecedented times.
Many diseases can be spread direct from dog to dog (e.g. so-called “kennel cough”) so it is important to practice ‘social distancing’ for your dog:
- Avoid close contact between your dog & other dogs
- Keep your dog on a short lead when other dogs are about to avoid contact
- Avoid walking dogs in areas and at times where there are a lot of other dogs
- Avoid your dog drinking from common water bowls & sharing toys with other dogs
- Avoid petting other people’s dogs and cats during this time
Some diseases (e.g. leptospirosis or parvovirosis) can be picked up from wildlife or the environment so avoid exercising pets in high risk areas and prevent high risk activities:
- Avoid your dog accessing ditches, ponds, lakes & rivers or drinking from any of these water sources or puddles
- Avoid your dog coming into contact with wildlife (especially rodents) or scavenging
- Avoid free access to or exercising your dog in farmyards, in the vicinity of stables, poultry flocks or anywhere else where rodents are likely to be present in increased numbers
- Avoid allowing your dog access to sniff at other dog’s faeces
- Pick up your dog’s faeces whilst on a walk and dispose hygienically
Some diseases are spread by external parasites e.g. Babesiosis or Lyme disease (ticks), so reducing the risk of your dog being bitten by these insects is important if you are in a risk area:
- Avoid exercising your dog in tick habitats such as areas of forestry and parkland and/or use veterinary recommended parasite control that is effective against both fleas and ticks.
- It is important to keep up your pet’s worm control based on their lifestyle and risk factors
- Note that vets are now permitted to prescribe these preventative parasite control products remotely
Since many diseases can be spread direct from cat to cat (e.g. feline ‘flu, feline leukaemia) it is important to try to minimise contact with other cats – especially where there may be stray cats in the area:
- Keep cats indoors where possible (provided this doesn’t cause excessive stress to your cat), if not then limit their time outdoors to during the day and try to bring them in overnight when cats are typically more active, to reduce the risk of cats fighting
- Maintain effective control against fleas and ticks to minimise risks from these parasites
- Avoid petting cats and dogs that do not belong to you to avoid passing on diseases to them from your hands
The two vaccine-preventable diseases of rabbits (myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD)) are both present within the wild rabbit population and, although they can be spread by close contact, they can also be spread by biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes:
- Bring rabbits indoors, if possible, but if not then house them away from any possible contact with wild rabbits and in insect-proof housing (e.g. with insect screens or fine netting across the openings)
- Regularly use a veterinary-approved flea product for rabbits (be sure to use products labelled for rabbits, as some flea products can be toxic to them)
- Consider the use of fly repellents and other control measures outside the rabbits housing
- Maintain excellent cage hygiene
- Feed mainly good quality grass or hay as the main food, minimise obesity and gastrointestinal problems by feeding only a limited quantity of a complete pelleted food, avoiding or minimising treat items such as carrots, which contain a lot of sugar
- Check your rabbit’s behaviour and physical condition twice a day during the warmer months to make sure soiling does not occur around your rabbit’s hindquarters
- Consider the use of an appropriate product to prevent fly-strike if rabbits are housed outdoors