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    • Ask The Expert
    • 26 Mar, 2020

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for cat and dog owners

    We’ve asked our Senior Vet, Justin Ainsworth, the most pressing questions for pet owners regarding Coronavirus. Read on for guidance and advice from Justin.

    As an organisation rooted in animal welfare, the Vet Clinic team here at Mayhew wanted to share some information and resources to help alleviate any concerns you may have regarding your pets care and wellbeing while restrictions are in place.

    Advice is changing quickly so for updated information we recommend you use the website links provided throughout this article. You should also consult with your own veterinary provider if you have any additional concerns or questions.

    For the most up-to-date information and your own health concerns please follow NHS and government advice carefully:

    NHS guidance

    GOV UK guidance

     

    What services are Mayhew currently providing?

    Due to the government restrictions, we have had to significantly reduce our services. We are now concentrating our resources on maintaining the health and welfare of the cats and dogs here at the Home. We are still operating telephone services for our Animal Welfare Officers, Rehoming, Fostering and Community Veterinary Clinic. We will update our service provisions on our Coronavirus update page as they develop.

     

    Can my pet catch or give me coronavirus (COVID-19)?

    According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. Current evidence suggests COVID-19 has an animal source but this remains under investigation. (Reference: British Veterinary Association (BVA) website on 24 March 2020)

    It is recommended that sensible personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand washing) and pet hygiene (e.g. grooming, clean food bowls and litter trays) are undertaken.  Please see the websites below for additional information.

    The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

    The British Veterinary Association (BVA)

    World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

     

    Can I still walk my dog, what activities can we do and where should I go?

    (NB for non-isolating households)

    Exercising your dog is undoubtedly important for their health and our health. However, outdoor activities are now subject to UK government legislation.  You should use the government’s allowance for one outdoor physical activity a day to exercise your dog where possible. It is important that you minimise the time spent outside of the home and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household.

    We are not aware, at this time, of any exemptions to this legislation related to dog owners. Social distancing should be strictly followed while out on walks. Dog walking groups, puppy classes, exercise classes and other such activities are all restricted under current measures and you should not attend.

    The areas where you walk your dog are important. Try to stick to areas with low numbers of dogs and people to help reduce human and dog interactions. Pavements following recent rain or sunshine are the cleanest and safest environment. Parks, countryside, woodlands and waterways are all higher risk areas for your dog and should be avoided where possible.

    You should not allow your dog to undertake strenuous or high impact exercise.  Health care and veterinary services are currently severely limited so protecting your own, and your pet’s health is critically important at this time.

    Those with gardens should utilise these for exercising their dogs, taking particular care to keep free from dog waste.

     

    Indoor activities with your pets

    Increasing indoor activities with your dog or cat will be very beneficial for them. Playing games and time spent teaching new tricks will be rewarding for you and your pet.  Remember food is not the only reward a pet craves; a stroke and attention go a long way.  Environmental enrichment with toys, games, puzzle feeders and new smells also relieve boredom and provides stimulation for your pet. Mayhew will be publishing some more ideas for you soon!

     

    What if I, or my household, is self isolating?

    This is perhaps the most challenging question especially with the recent increase in restrictions (announced 23 March 2020). Where possible those in the household with symptoms, or diagnosed with coronavirus, should avoid close contact with their pets. Again, this relates to general good hygiene measures to keep yourself as healthy as possible during infection and not to any specific COVID-19 risk a pet may represent.

    As we understand the regulations currently you will not be allowed outside your household to walk your dog or pets whilst under self, or household,  isolation. You may use your garden or private household outdoor space, if you have one, for exercise and as a toileting area for your dog. If your dog cannot exercise at home, you should ask someone outside of your household to walk your dog for you. All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.

    Try to find local coronavirus support groups who may be able to help with provisions for yourself and your pet whilst you are under isolation. A link to the list of these local groups can be found in this BBC article.

     

    What if I am walking a dog for someone else? 

    You may also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self isolating or being shielded. 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.

     

    General advice for all cat owners
    You should wash your hands before and after any contact with your cat.

     

    Can my cat go outside?

    There are no restrictions on cats going outside. For outdoor cats, patrolling their territory can play a large role in them expressing their natural behaviour. Currently, there is no evidence they could pass on, or bring in the coronavirus. However, during such uncertain times, sensible measures should be considered. This is particularly important for households with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases under isolation restrictions. Thought should be given to limiting your cat’s outdoor activities where possible.

     

    What veterinary services are available to pet owners?

    The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has announced stringent new guidance to the veterinary profession on the services they can provide.

    “Current advice is that veterinary practices must reduce face-to-face contact immediately, switching to providing emergency care only, fulfilment of urgent prescriptions and maintaining the food supply chain.” RCVS statement, 23 March 2020

    In practical terms, all non-emergency veterinary services for companion animals is severely restricted. Your veterinary provider should still be contactable by phone to discuss any medical concerns you have alongside the provision of emergency services. This will inevitably vary from practice to practice.

    Animals that are under Mayhew’s care (e.g. dogs and cats on foster or currently under treatment by ourselves) will be able to contact our Fostering and Clinic team for assistance and advice.

    Fulfilment of urgent prescriptions by your vets should allow you to continue to give any important medications your pet requires. There will likely be provisions to extend the length between check ups by your vets.

    Further guidance from RCVS

     

    What if your pet is due their vaccination?

    Vaccinations are not considered emergency treatment, but they remain extremely important for our pets’ protection from infectious disease.

    If your cat or dog has received their primary vaccination course (i.e. kitten or puppy course) and has had their first annual booster they will have a good level of immunity against core diseases. Some of the vaccines can protect up to three years after the first annual booster.

    The core vaccinations for dogs in the UK are Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis. Cats are routinely covered for the flu viruses and enteritis (panleucopaenia). Additionally, your cat may have had the Feline Leukaemia vaccination (FeLV).

    If you are taking the precautions outlined above, namely personal hygiene, stopping interactions with other dogs and carefully selecting where you are walking your dog, they will have a much-reduced risk for infectious disease even if their booster vaccinations are overdue.

    Single cat households, in a primarily indoor environment, will also have a low risk of infection.

    Extra care and advice should be taken with pets that have not received their initial vaccination course e.g. puppies and kittens, as these are a high-risk group.

    Please discuss individual requirements with your own veterinary provider. We would recommend that when normal veterinary services resume, that all cats and dogs have their vaccinations updated at the earliest opportunity if overdue and continue to take precautions until done so.

    WSAVA vaccination guidelines

     

    Should I continue flea and worm treatment?

    If you already have flea and worm treatment at home specifically for your pet, then you should continue to use this as directed.

    You must not use any flea or worming products that are not provided by your vets for your pet or “over the counter” products (e.g. pet shops and supermarkets), which are not species specific i.e. only use products for cats on cats and dog products on dogs. Use of the wrong flea or worming treatment, or strength of medication, can have serious side effects for your pet. Please seek advice from the salesperson or manufacturer if you have any questions regarding the use of a product and always read the manufacturers guidance.

    Our products for dogs protect against lungworm. This is spread from slugs and snails. Please limit your dog’s access to areas with high levels of slugs and snails if you can not obtain lung worm preventative medications.

    For cats, it is especially important to keep a clean litter tray and personal hygiene (e.g. hand washing) when handling soiled trays if regular worming has not taken place.

    If a flea infestation occurs, please remember that a household insecticide spray specifically labelled and licensed for this purpose is a valuable tool. These are usually available from vets, pet shops and supermarkets.

    The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) has a lot of advice on parasite control for your pets.

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