Coronavirus: Are My Pets at Risk?

By Claire Roulston
Updated on June 16, 2020

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you aren’t living with the fear of coronavirus infection.

However, for most of us, we are having to adapt to stay safe. So, what can you do to minimise risk to yourself/your pet?

Editor’s note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional about any medical-related concerns you may have.

Can dogs get the virus?

Currently there is no evidence that dogs (or cats) can get sick from Covid-19. So, you don’t have to worry about your pet getting ill. There is also no reason for them to wear masks.

What about the dog that caught the virus?

Ah yes, there’s been ONE well studied case of a dog who caught a low dose of the virus from their sick owner.

The dog has shown no signs of illness, and it’s not thought that it has a large enough infection to be able to re-infect other humans or dogs. Up-to-date information on this case, and Covid-19 risk to pets can be found at the WSAVA website and in a more readable and less technical form by University of Illinois Vet School.

So, if I get sick should I avoid contact with my dog?

Yes, this would be a very good idea! Wash your hands before contact with your pet and keep as far from them as you can.

I’m not sick, is it ok that I hug my dog?

Yes, but WASH YOUR HANDS FIRST if you have been in contact with anyone else/outdoors. Dogs can’t get sick from Covid-19, but just as the virus can persist on surfaces, including soft furnishings, there is no reason to assume that it couldn’t persist on dog hair. If anyone carrying the virus on their hands hugged your dog, then the next person to stroke your dog could also be infected.

I shouldn’t let strangers touch my dog?

Limit contact with your dog to immediate members of your family/household. As I just said, if an infected person cuddled your dog, they may leave virus particles on the fur, ready to infect you.

I need to self-isolate. Should my dog isolate with me?

Yes. If you need to separate yourself from the world, then your dog should be kept separate too. Depending on your reasons for isolation you MAY be able to walk/have someone walk your dog during this time. If you are isolating because you think you may be infectious, then either have a friend/family member look after your dog OR take your dog into isolation with you (no outdoor access except for potty breaks, ideally in a private garden). If you are isolating yourself because you are in a high-risk group and have no wish to get sick, then both you and your dog will benefit from some fresh air and exercise. You should avoid other people (stay at least 2 metres away at all times) and do not let anyone touch your dog, and don’t touch anyone else’s pets.

How do I stop my dog going crazy bored locked in the house with me?

Sally the Samoyed wearing her mask (Photo: @scotlandwithfluffywolf / Instagram)

Sally the Samoyed wearing her mask (Photo: @scotlandwithfluffywolf / Instagram)

Put aside time every day to focus on your pet (just as you would if you were going a walk). Play training games, and/or use puzzle toys if you have them. Make a puzzle toy by putting dog treats underneath a towel, or under tennis balls placed in a muffin tray. Play scent work games (hide a toy and reward them when they find it). Play tug. If all else fails, then brush the dog!

Should my dog travel on public transport?

The same as for yourself, try to minimise your dog’s exposure to public places. This includes public transport, cafes, busier areas etc. If you must travel, then minimise your dog’s contact with potentially infected surfaces. Put down a towel or mat, or wipe clean the area, or if you have a smaller dog then carry them in a bag or carrier. Wipe their paws and wash your hands as soon after travel as you can and wash any mat or towel you used while travelling.

I wash my hands when I get back home, should I wash my dog too?

Always wash your hands EVERY time you return home. This is the single most effective way to reduce your virus risk. It probably isn’t practical or needful to wash your dog all the time, plus it’s likely to cause them skin irritation. However, washing their feet in a bowl of soapy water won’t hurt and could help. Alternatively, if you have them, get your dog to wear booties outside and wash the booties on your return.

Can I use alcohol hand sanitiser on my pets?

Frankly I wouldn’t. The alcohol will dry out their skin and may cause itching. A quick paw-wash with dog friendly shampoo would be a better idea.

What about pet supplies? I’m worried about running out of dog food?

As of now, most food stores are being allowed to stay open. Stock up on pet food while you get your own provisions. Most companies who deliver raw or cooked dog meals have said they will continue to operate for as long as they can during any lock-down. If you are worried, check the website of the company you use or ring their customer services number and ask them about their supply situation. Your local pet shop will probably offer a deliver service (and be delighted to get your custom) so it’s worth contacting them to find out.

Remember if you can get food for yourself, then you can always cook for or feed raw your dog. You don’t have to rely on processed dog foods. A perfectly balanced dog meal can be created out of tinned sardines (not in brine please), a raw egg and some pureed veg.

What about the vet? Will they stay open?

Again, please check their website, or give them a call. If they foresee that they will be shut for a time, then make sure to get a supply of any prescription medications your dog requires.

What happens if I get sick, who will care for my dog?

Do you have a “next-of-kin” for your dog? Do your friends/family know who this is? Now would be a very good time to decide on who you’d trust to look after your pets if you were hospitalised. Maybe reach out to a dog-walking friend who lives nearby and suggest that you be doggy next-of-kin for each other?

Check in on more vulnerable people

If you have a friend or neighbour who doesn’t want to go out but has a pet, then check with them that they have all the supplies they need (in fact check with them whether or not they are a pet owner).

If they require it then drop off supplies on their doorstep. You could offer to walk their dog, but you are running a risk of returning a dog to them that is now contaminated with the virus and could pass it on. You will need to use your judgment on what you both consider an acceptable risk.

In Summary

• DON’T TOUCH other dogs/let other people touch your pet.
• STAY AWAY from crowded areas if you can.
• GET MEDS NOW from your vet
• BUY DOG FOOD with your food shop or from a delivery service or from your local pet shop
• HAVE A DOGGIE NEXT OF KIN. Make sure you have left clear instructions for who you’d wish to look after your pets if you can’t for any reason.
• CHECK on more vulnerable people

Good luck, stay safe and together we’ll all get through this. If all else fails, look at cute doggie videos on the Internet. I suggest @lifewithkleeklai on TikTok.

Any stories of how you are staying safe, good ideas for doggie brain-training games, or if you just want to chat dog-related topics, as always you can send hello.bark a message or come say hello on my dog’s Instagram @scotlandwithfluffywolf, I’ll be delighted to talk to you, my family are trying to self-isolate as much as possible too.