Dogs and coronavirus

Dogs and coronavirus

Our coronavirus information on this page is written in line with guidelines issued by the Westminster government for England. Rules are largely the same for all areas of the UK but if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, regulations may differ. Be sure to keep an eye on your local news for any regional changes in government guidelines too. Our advice is a guide for pet owners and should not be taken as legal advice. Alongside government advice, we are giving suggestions from Blue Cross experts to help pet owners apply the new measures to caring for their pets. We are updating this advice as frequently as possible, so please keep checking back.

Government guidance states that it is rare for an animal to catch coronavirus. If they do contract the virus, they often only show mild symptoms and are better within a few days. There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans.

There is also no evidence to suggest that this coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) is circulating between pets in the UK. All available evidence indicates that the spread of coronavirus in the UK is due to human-to-human transmission.

It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after stroking your pets for protection against viruses, or bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. Government guidelines recommend washing your hands before and after touching your dog, or handling their food.

There is no evidence that washing your dog controls the spread of the virus and you must only use products that are made for pets if you do decide to wash them.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals.

Covid-19 is a new strain of the coronaviruses that, like seven other strains throughout history, is thought to have made the jump from animals to humans, though the exact source of this strain is still under investigation.

The most common human symptoms are a high temperature and a continuous cough. This virus can cause pneumonia, coughing, fever and difficulty with breathing and, in extreme cases, death.

If you think you may have coronavirus, follow the latest government advice found on the NHS website.

Can I walk my dog?

Yes, you can walk your dog.

People in England are currently able to exercise outdoors as often as they wish, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. Dog owners can now walk their pets more than once a day. To follow social distancing, people walking dogs should remain two metres away from others – except those in your household – at all times on your dog walk.

Government guidelines brought in on Monday 14 September state that you must not meet indoors or outdoors in a group of more than six people. This excludes those you live with or those who are part of your social bubble.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus and need to remain at home for 10 days, or 14 days as a household, you should ask someone outside of your household to walk your dog for you.

You can also help your dog through isolation with these fun games for when you’re stuck inside.

There is thorough information about social distancing measures on the government website, however it is for people, not dogs.

Can I walk my dog off the lead?

Government guidelines ask dog owners to consider  keeping their pets on lead if they are walking them in areas used by other people to ensure they can follow two metre social distancing.

If you’re walking your dog in less populated areas, you still need to make sure you and your dog follow the social distancing measures by keeping you both two metres away from other people and pets but they don’t need to be on a lead as long as your pet is under control. If your dog has poor recall, we recommend keeping them leashed for this period as vet practices are running limited services and there are likely to be fewer volunteers to help you look for your dog if they become lost or injured.

We recommend dogs should be kept on lead around livestock  even outside of the coronavirus period, but bearing in mind the current restrictions on vets, it’s particularly important to make sure your dog cannot injure livestock or other animals at this time.

Can I drive somewhere to take my dog for a walk?

Changes to government guidelines (from Wednesday 13 May) mean you can drive to any location to walk your dog outdoors, ‘irrespective of distance’. Wherever you walk, you and members of your household, including your dog, will need to follow social distancing.

Some local authorities have closed the car parks of popular walking and hiking areas; others are re-opening car parks to walkers.

Can I go on a dog walk with someone else?

Changes to government guidelines from 1 June allow a person to meet up to six people outdoors. This means you can go for a dog walk with six people not in your household, as long as you and your dog stay two metres apart from the others at all times.

I don’t have a garden, how can I let my dog go to the toilet?

You can now (as of 13 May) exercise your dog outside as many times a day as you wish, including taking them to the toilet, as long as you follow the guidelines to keep two metres apart from others.

Can my dog go outside if I am self-isolating?

People who have symptoms of coronavirus are asked to stay at home and not leave at all for a period of 10 days from when their symptoms started; people who live in a household with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus must stay at home for 14 days from when the first person in the household became ill.

Defra has stated that if you are self-isolating and cannot exercise your dog at home, you should ask someone who does not live in your household to walk your dog for you.

If you have no one to walk your dog, then they can’t go for a walk as you will need to self-quarantine, but they can go out in the garden for toilet breaks. If you don’t have a garden you can take them to just outside your home to go to the loo, but make sure to stay well away from others and minimise your time outside.*  If you are well enough, you can keep them entertained within the home with some great indoor games for dogs.

*please note, as with all of the advice on this page, this is subject to change as government advice changes in line with the situation.

Can my neighbour, a friend or family member walk my dog for me?

Yes; the government has clarified that people can leave their homes to walk the dogs of people who are vulnerable, self-isolating, or being shielded.

There is no evidence that dogs can carry Covid-19, however just like human hands, pet fur could carry the virus from one person to another, so in line with World Health Organisation advice, we advise you wash your hands before and after handling a pet, whether they are your own or belong to someone else.

If someone else is walking your dog, they need to stay two metres away from other people and animals at all times, including when on the walk and when you are handing the dog over to be walked.

Tips for walking someone else’s dog

  • Consider each individual situation and how to safeguard the person you are helping
  • Agree the process beforehand, including when you’ll walk the dog and for how long
  • Walk the dog in the area surrounding the person’s home
  • Collect and return the dog securely, making sure they can’t escape but also that you follow social distancing. Minimise any time spent in the owner’s home.
  • Never walk dogs from different households at the same time
  • Wash your hands using soap and water before leaving your home, and as soon as you return after the walk
  • Wear gloves while you walk the dog and throw them away afterwards
  • Use a different lead to the owner’s. Wash the lead with soap and water after the dog has been returned home.
  • Ask someone from the household to open and close the doors for you
  • Where possible, minimise stroking or touching the dog
  • Follow social distancing of two metres from other people and pets while walking

If walking a shielded person’s dog

  • Avoid any contact with the people in the household to keep them safe. Stay at least two metres away at all times.
  • Walk their dog on a lead so you can make sure they don’t come into contact with anyone else’s dog or another person
  • Wipe the dog with a pet-safe wipe or clean, damp cloth before returning to reduce any risk of passing the virus to the owner

If walking a dog from a household with coronavirus, or suspected coronavirus

  • Avoid any contact with the people in the household. Stay at least two metres away at all times.
  • Wipe the dog with a pet-safe wipe or clean, damp cloth before the walk
  • Keep the dog on a lead to avoid pets and other people touching them in case the virus is on their fur
  • Use a lead that doesn’t belong to the household, where possible. Or use gloves when touching the lead and throw them away after use.
  • Take care when cleaning up after them; it goes without saying, but use a poo bag to pick it up and throw it away as soon as possible

How to protect your dog from coronavirus

If you have Covid-19, then ideally, you’ll restrict contact with pets and other animals ie no kissing, cuddling or stroking. Though there is no current evidence that pets can get the virus, the situation is still evolving, so it’s better to be safe.
If you have sole responsibility of your dog with no help, then be sure to wash your hands before and after handling them and wear a face mask.

Can I still buy dog food?

Yes. Pet shops are classed as essential shops and can therefore remain open. Make sure you have 14 days’ worth of your pet’s usual supplies and only make essential trips to the pet shop.

Can I still take my dog to the vet?

While veterinary practices can remain open under new government rules to limit the spread of coronavirus, animals can only be seen in person, in emergencies. Routine appointments have been put on hold, with online or phone consultation services being offered by many vets instead. 

You will need to discuss with your vet whether preventative care, such as vaccinations and neutering, is an urgent priority for your pet. They will assess this on a case by case basis as per advice from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the UK’s veterinary governing bodies.

If you think your pet needs to be seen as an emergency case, contact your vet. Social distancing rules continue to apply in urgent face-to-face appointments, which includes limiting the number of owners present for the consultation. In most cases owners will be asked to wait outside the building while their pet is treated. Policies between veterinary practices may vary. Keep an eye on your vet practice’s social media, as many practices are putting up to date information for clients on their Facebook pages.

On Friday 27 March, the government issued further advice stating pet owners should call their vet first before going to see them.

Can I still get the medication my dog needs?

Urgent medication and treatments for your pet may be prescribed through remote consultations while strict social distancing measures are in place. Your vet will advise you how you can collect the supplies, as procedures vary between practices.

My dog’s vaccinations have expired, what do I do?

If your pet is due to have their boosters or first inoculations, the BVA and RCVS have advised that vets may be able to carry these out if they believe them to be essential to your pet’s welfare but, like everyone else, vets have to follow the current government guidelines on Covid-19 prevention.

They will assess each case on an individual level and proceed if they consider the benefit to animal welfare to be greater than the risk to human health. 

If you’re unable to get to your vet and your pet is unvaccinated, has had an incomplete primary course or is due to have a booster they may not be fully protected so should not walk on, or come into contact with surfaces in public areas. It is still safe to carry your pet in your arms or take them out in the car. If your pet is affected by this, take a look at ideas for indoor play and exercise

Can I get my dog neutered?

Pets will be assessed on a case by case basis to see if neutering is an essential treatment for your pet’s welfare under new advice from the BVA and RCVS. This will take into consideration their general health and if they live with other unneutered pets of the same species and opposite sex.

If you’re unable to get to your vet, or they are not providing this service and your pet is unneutered, they should be kept away from public areas. Dogs will need to be walked on lead away from other dogs. 

Can I get my dog microchipped?

The BVA and RCVS have advised that microchipping can be carried out on your pet if they are already booked into your vet for essential treatment.

If your pet is not booked in, speak with your vet about how to keep your pet safe and be sure to keep their collar ID tag up to date with your name and address.

What happens if my dog needs to be put to sleep?

The decision to euthanise your pet can be an extremely difficult one to make, and your vet will continue to do everything they can to guide you through this sad process. Current guidelines say veterinary consultations should be given without the owner present, and this includes those in which pets will be put to sleep. This is to comply with social distancing measures. Some vets are able to sedate pets with the owner present first in order to reduce stress for the animal. This will depend on the individual pet’s case and the vet’s discretion and facilities, so speak to your practice for further advice on this.

Our free and confidential Pet Bereavement Support Service remains open to calls and emails, so please do get in touch if you need help coming to terms with pet loss at this difficult time.

What’s the impact on my pet insurance?

With many vets operating on an emergency only basis, you may be concerned with making a claim on your insurance. Normally, many policies become invalid if your pet is not up to date on routine care, such as vaccinations.

During this time, many insurance companies have agreed to take a flexible approach on policy requirements. The Association of British Insurers, which many pet insurance companies are members of, has said it recognises this is an unprecedented time and has advised insurers to be flexible where government restrictions mean pet owners are unable to get to a vet for their pet’s annual vaccinations, health check and dental examination.

Many insurers are also offering additional support through any claims to customers who are worried about the health of their pet during this difficult time.

If your pet is due their booster vaccinations, and you’re concerned as to how this may affect your policy, it’s best to call your insurance provider directly and discuss this with them.

For pets that are due their initial vaccinations, speak to your vet, as this will also have an impact on when they’re allowed out of the house.

Can a professional dog walker walk my dog?

Dog walkers are able to continue operating, and priority should be given to key workers, and shielded and vulnerable people unable to make alternative arrangements.

  • To keep everyone safe, follow the handover advice for friends, family and neighbours, and ask the dog walker to use their own lead.
  • If your dog walker takes your dog in their car, they must disinfected it, along with any equipment, between dogs
  • Dog walkers are advised to use gloves and throw them away after visiting each household, and to refrain from touching personal items such as phones during walks
  • Only dogs from the same household should be walked together
  • Dogs being walked by professional dog walkers are allowed off lead in secure, private areas only

Can my dog still go to day care?

Commercial dog day care centres can continue to operate and, where they do, priority should be given to key workers, and shielded and vulnerable people that have no alternative arrangements for their pet.

  • Owners will need to drop off and pick up their dogs by appointment and social distancing measures in place – this includes owners waiting in their car until staff are ready to take the dog at a safe distance.
  • If dogs are collected by the facility, the vehicle should be disinfected between journeys
  • Dogs should be wiped with a pet-safe disposable cloth before and after arriving
  • Dogs from coronavirus or self-isolating households are not allowed to mix with dogs from households that do not have, and do not suspect, anyone within them to have coronavirus

Can I still take my dog to the groomers?

Groomers are being asked to assess whether their clients’ pets need to come to them in person, or whether they can give dog owners advice over the phone instead. 

Many dogs do need professional grooming for their own welfare. If your dog does need to see a professional groomer, you are now allowed to drive your dog to the groomer, as long as you have booked the appointment first so the groomer can maintain social distancing between you, themselves, and other clients. You will need to wait inside your car until your pet is called in, and wait there or elsewhere while your pet is being groomed. You will not be allowed into the grooming room with your pet, or to wait in any reception areas. Groomers can collect your dog from your home, as long as they disinfect their vehicle in between clients. Mobile groomers are able to continue running their businesses as long as they follow social distancing.

If your household has confirmed coronavirus or is self-isolating, your groomer may want to wait until you and your household are well before grooming your dog. Pet groomers are asked to follow the business handover protocol at all times. More information on grooming.

Iafe to put my dog is it sn kennels?

If you are unwell and isolating, it is a good idea to make alternative arrangements for someone to look after your dog so that they continue to be exercised. Pets can only be dropped off or picked up by appointment only so kennels can ensure social distancing.

Under guidance, owners are advised to retain any toys and equipment such as leads, and kennels should supply these for the duration of the dog’s stay. Where this cannot be done, all equipment should be washed with soap and water in open air. Kennels are advised to wipe down dogs with a pet-friendly disposable cloth after they arrive and before collection.

While there is no current evidence that pets or companion animals can be infected with the new coronavirus or be carriers of the disease, it can travel on their fur in the same way it can on our own hands. Therefore, dogs coming from infected households should be kept in the kennel’s isolation facility as a precaution for three days. Home boarding facilities are advised to keep three days between boarding dogs from different households.

Stringent handwashing and cleaning regimes should be in place at all times – not only because of the coronavirus threat, but because there is also is a risk that some dogs may not have up-to-date vaccinations at this time. Kennels are being asked to speak to their vet about the risk of boarding unvaccinated dogs at this time, and this has to be weighed up alongside the public health risk posed by coronavirus to people.

With more time at home, what can I do if my dog is becoming too clingy?

If your dog is becoming a distraction while you are trying to work and, to avoid them becoming too clingy while you are at home, it’s a good idea to pop them in another room to rest for periods during the day. Or, if you have a baby gate, to have them in another room where they can still see you but where you aren’t tempted to fuss or play with them. 

Giving them a Kong or a food puzzle when they’re away from you, is a great way to keep them mentally stimulated and to encourage them to feel positive about not being in your company.

You may also want to put pets in another room if you have a planned video or phone meeting where they may distract you or insist on blocking the screen.

My dog has a behaviour issue, what can I do?

As many of us are spending more time at home, we may notice changes in our dogs’ behaviour. This could be because our pets’ routine has changed, or we could be picking up on existing behaviours we haven’t spotted before.

Changes in behaviour can often be a sign of a medical problem so give your vet a call first before speaking to a behaviourist. If you need advice from a behaviourist, call Blue Cross’s Behaviour Helpline on 0300 777 1975.

Is now a good time to get a puppy?

With plenty of time at home, many people may think now is an ideal time to welcome a puppy into the family. Breeders are being advised not to mate their dogs at this time. There are, however, many existing litters of puppies already born and ready to be re-homed now or in the near future, and delaying this could potentially jeopardise their future welfare. In this case, puppy buyers are able to collect their puppy from the breeder’s home, providing social distancing measures can be applied and the pet is at least eight weeks of age. A licensed, responsible, pet transport service may also be used.

Do bear in mind that visits won’t be allowed during this time which makes it more difficult to spot bad and irresponsible breeders. Ensure, if you do buy a pet, that you can have at least one ‘virtual’ visit in which you can see the puppies with their mother, and follow our guidance on buying a pet and questions to ask breeders. All paperwork should be done remotely in advance of drop off, and prior advice given on food and equipment needed.

Another thing to consider is that any puppies going to homes at this time could miss out on many aspects of the vital socialisation period, which enables them to grow into confident, happy and well-rounded individuals. This includes things like getting them used to visitors, other dogs and the general sights and sounds of the outside world. Owning a puppy under normal circumstances can be a huge challenge, and even more so during this current time. New owners will need to do extra training to build confidence and resilience. Read our Puppies in Lockdown advice for help.

Bear in mind it may not be possible to vaccinate or microchip puppies at the moment. Breeders are being asked to consult their vet for advice. If you decide to buy a puppy during lockdown, be sure to discuss this with your breeder before committing to buy, and speak to your own vet about what would happen if your new puppy became unwell during lockdown.

Can my puppy or dog go to training classes?

No. Dog training classes can’t run in person at the moment due to social distancing. Many trainers are running online classes instead.

Socialisation is crucial for dogs, and particularly for puppies, so Blue Cross has put together specific advice to help puppy owners give their pups a great start in life while following the restrictions currently on our lives. Read our free Puppies in Lockdown guides and watch our puppy vlog here.

We are continuing to update this advice as more information becomes available. Keep checking back for the latest updates.