The Prime Minister of the UK has instructed all non-essential businesses close and people stay home where possible during COVID-19, but what does this mean for our pets? What if they need food or vet treatment? Read on for the latest advice.

How will I get pet food?

If you buy your pet food from the supermarket, just like lots of items for us, pet food is also being panic bought by worried owners. Amazon seems to replenish their stock every few days, I have been keeping an eye on a few brands of dog and rabbit food – underneath the price, many say ‘temporarily unavailable’. However, when checking back a few hours later or the next day, the stock is being replenished. Pet stores are currently classed as essential services, so whilst you may have to queue to get in as many stores are only allowing minimal customers in at a time, you should still be able to get in (just remember to maintain social distancing whilst in-store). But what if, like many of your own animals, your pet is on specialist food that you need to get either from an online supplier or your vet? My most important tip is DONT LEAVE IT TOO LATE, as in, don’t get down to your last can and then think about it as deliveries and orders can take longer. Many online stores are advising longer delivery times and some stores are hiking up delivery charges to deal with the more frequent deliveries.

How can I get my pet’s medication?

If your pet is under the care of your vet and is on medication, it is very important your pet does not run out of their pills. Many veterinary practices are now operating on ‘skeletal staff’, meaning in most places there are several small teams on different shifts. If your vets allow you to order medication online, please use this in the first instance to free up phone lines for emergencies. If you need to call, that’s ok! Your pet’s medication is still important! Be aware that most prescriptions will take longer to fulfil, so make sure you give them lots of notice before you run out. Check with your vets, but many are asking you to pay over the phone, and phone, when you arrive to collect meds and the staff will leave it on the doorstep for you to pick up. Most will have the same protocol for routine flea and wormers, and some practices may offer to post these for a charge.

What happens if my pet is unwell?

If your pet is unwell and you are worried, don’t panic. Yout first port of call will be to phone your vet. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have given vets a triage system to help them determine which animals should be seen right away, which can be treated over the phone (many vets are offering skype consults) and the rules for certain medications are being slightly relaxed and vets are able to prescribe certain medications without a physical exam.

What is classed as an emergency?

Any of the following symptoms could be classed as an emergency, but please phone your vet before rushing down. Please don’t show up without an appointment,

  • Severe trauma eg a Road Traffic accident
  • Significant weakness or collapse
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough going on for more than a week
  • An animal taking a long time to give birth
  • Acute, severe lameness
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Retching
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Difficulty passing urine or faeces
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea with depression
  • Flystrike
  • Gut stasis (rabbits/guineas not eating and passing faeces)

Get used to giving your pet a health check every day.

What will happen when I get to the vets?

After phoning your vets and them asking you to bring your pet down, you may do so. When you reach the surgery, phone the vets from your car and a member of staff will collect your animal from you and take them into the surgery. Please maintain your social distancing as the staff are risking their health to help animals. Please do not stand too close or come into contact with staff members. The vet will examine your animal and phone you with a plan of action. I know it’s far from ideal and of course, you are going to want to be with your pet, but it just isn’t possible at this time and without the veterinary team, we would all be worried about our animal’s health.

What if my pet is due for their vaccinations?

Booster vaccinations are classed as non-essential and therefore you won’t be able to get these done. There is actually a three-month leeway for all vaccines without the need to restart the vaccination course again, and I’d like to think that in three months time, the curfew rules will have changed. If your pet is a high risk, or you are concerned, please phone your vet for advice.

To lessen the risk of disease transmission particularly for rabbits, adding fly screens and fly repellants around their living quarters and runs can reduce the risk of both myxomatosis and flystrike.

Can my pet catch COVID-19?

There is no evidence to suggest that animals can catch COVID-19. however, with that being said, there is also no evidence to prove or disprove that animals cannot carry the virus on their fur. For safety, wash your hands before and after touching your animals and if you have any concerns, please call your vet.

Can I still walk my dog during COVID-19?

The current rules permit us to one form of daily exercise a day. If there are more than one of you living in the same house, each household member could walk your dog once, therefore your dog can still several walks a day if this is what they are used to. Please remember when out and about to stay at least 2 meters from other people and don’t let dogs mix for the time being. I know it’s hard not to, but don’t touch other peoples dogs during this time in case the virus can be transmitted via fur. It is also a good idea to keep your dog on lead because should the worst happen and they run away, there are going to be fewer people available to help look for your dog and you are only allowed to leave the house once a day, so you won’t be able to go out searching for lost animals often!

Can I drive to the woods/beach to walk my dog?

The UK government has banned all non-essential travel and this includes driving somewhere to walk your dog. You are only allowed to exercise from your home, so stay off the roads.

Remember, if you are worried about your pet, phone your vet. I will add more blogs over the next few days with more advice during isolation.