Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for animal owners

Advice for pet owners and livestock keepers on looking after the health and welfare of their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

General overview

There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans), following close contact with infected humans.  Infected animals tend to show only mild symptoms and recover within a few days.  In several countries in the world, incidents of infection in companion animals, mostly cats and dogs, have been reported in companion animals, in a limited number of zoo animals and on mink in farms.  In the UK, there is no evidence of the virus circulating in livestock, cases in pets are very rare and there are no mink farms.  The primary driver for COVID-19 transmission is human to human contact, with more than 50 million human cases globally.

In line with general public health guidance on coronavirus you should:

  • wash your hands before and after contact with your pet, its food and bedding
  • do not share food with your pet
  • avoid close contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating

There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of coronavirus. Only wash or use products on your pet that are approved for use on animals.

If your animal needs veterinary care, you can arrange to have it seen by your vet but you should notify them by phone prior to attending.

Dogs

Dog walking

Whilst walking your dog you should stay 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household or support bubble, or one metre with risk mitigation, such as wearing a face covering, where 2 metres is not viable.

When walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should consider putting your dog on a lead to ensure you can stay 2 metres away from others.

You should wash your hands before and after handling your dog.

Advice if you’re walking dogs in behalf of someone not able to

You may walk a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self-isolating. 

You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog, and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.

Advice if you are self-isolating

If your dog cannot exercise at home, you should ask someone outside of your household or support bubble to walk your dog for you, or access services provided by a professional. All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided.

Cats

General advice for all cat owners

You should wash your hands before and after any contact with your cat.

Ferrets

This is specific guidance for ferret owners

Avoid contact with ferrets if you have had a positive COVID-19 test or have symptoms suggestive of it. If you are the ferret carer, someone else will need to look after the ferret if possible. If this is not possible, you should wear a facemask and gloves.

If you own a ferret, you must isolate it for 3 weeks (21 days) if:

  • you or your household are self-isolating
  • you have brought ferrets into the UK from countries not on the travel corridor list

Isolation means avoiding contact with either ferrets or people from other households.  If your ferret needs emergency veterinary care, you can arrange to have it taken to the vet but you should notify them of the situation prior to attending.

Animal boarding services

You should take your pet to, or collect your pet from, a boarding establishment by appointment only. Ask your animal boarding service if they provide a collection or drop-off service.

Grooming

You should contact the groomer in advance to make an appointment. Ask the groomer if they operate a mobile service or provide a collection and drop-off service.

Horses, livestock and other animals

You may:

  • visit and provide care for your horse or livestock - that includes where you keep your animal in livery or on private land
  • ride your horse or walk your animals to maintain their health and welfare

You should stay 2 metres away from others. You should wash your hands before and after contact with any animals.

You should make a plan for the care of your horse or livestock in case you need to self-isolate.

If your horse needs urgent attention from a farrier

If your horse requires urgent attention from a farrier, you should phone the farrier to arrange the best approach to meet your horses’ needs. You and the farrier must ensure that you keep 2 metres apart, and wash your hands before and after contact with the horse.

If you are self-isolating

If you are self-isolating and your horse or livestock are kept at your home, you may continue to care for them.  However, if your animals are not kept at your home you should arrange for someone else who is not self-isolating to care for them. 

This advice applies equally to private animal keepers and farm businesses.

If you are too unwell to care for your animals and there is no one to help

Contact DAERA, should you need to discuss the care of farmed animals or animals kept in riding establishments, boarding kennels, pet shops or zoos:

Contact your local council should you need to discuss the care of domestic pets, including horses, and non-farmed animals:

Current general advice

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