Dalmatian dog lying on back of sofa on windowsill looking sad

Coronavirus and dogs

Our coronavirus information on this page is written in line with guidelines issued by the Westminster government for England. From Thursday 5 November, an England-wide lockdown will be in place. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you may also be subject to additional restrictions. 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 or sign up to our coronavirus email updates.

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.

Frequently asked questions

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, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

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

Different regulations apply to certain parts of the UK. Get familiar with the guidelines in your area by visiting your government website.

England 

Strict restrictions will apply in England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December. These include:

  • Staying at home unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as work where you cannot work from home, exercising in a public place, including walking your dog, any medical concerns and education.
  • Not meeting socially indoors with family or friends unless they are part of your household or social bubble. You may meet in outdoor public places with people you live with, your support bubble, or one person from another household. Check for exceptions to this rule.
  • Non-essential shops, entertainment venues and indoor and outdoor leisure facilities. Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers, click-and-collect and takeaway for restaurants.

For more information visit Gov UK’s website.

Wales 

In Wales, the general population, must adhere to the following rules: 

  • you can form an ‘extended household’ with one other house which will form a part of your bubble. This means you’ll be allowed overnight stays and to meet them both indoors and outdoors – further guidance on this will be published by the Welsh government shortly.
  • up to four people from four different households can meet in places such as pubs, parks and restaurants, but not in private homes or gardens 
  • if there are more than four people within your extended household, then you can still meet with them
  • you must always stick to social distancing guidelines with those outside of your bubble

The above measures do not apply to those in local lockdown areas. Those areas under tighter restrictions are not allowed to meet with anyone outside of their own household indoors or in any indoor public space, such as pubs, restaurants and shops.

If you are in a local lockdown, restrictions mean that you are unable to travel to and from that area unless for work or education purposes. This will mean you can only exercise your dog within your area.

Check restrictions in Wales for more information and current guidelines for more information. 

Scotland 

On Monday 2 November, Scotland introduced a new five level system to help tackle the spread of Covid-19. They have provided guidance on issues that might affect pet owners, but check the Scottish government’s website for more detailed guidance.

  • Level zero: Indoor meetings of up to eight people from three households are allowed. Up to fifteen people from five different households can meet outdoors.
  • Level one: You should not visit people from another household in your or their home. Indoor meetings in a public place, such as a restaurant, and outdoor meetings are allowed with up to six people from two households. In a public place, children under twelve do not count towards this number.
  • Level two: You should not visit people from another household in your or their home. Up to six people from two households can meet inside in a public place (such as a restaurant) or outside, such as a park or pub garden. Avoid non-essential travel to level three and four areas.
  • Level three: You should not visit people from another household in your or their home. You can meet indoors in a public place and outdoors with up to six people from two households. Avoid unnecessary travel out of your area. Hospitality venues, eg pubs and restaurants, won’t be able to serve alcohol and must be closed by 6:00pm.
  • Level four: No indoor meeting between households. You can meet indoors in a public place and outdoors with up to six people from two households. Keep journeys inside your area to a minimum and avoid unnecessary travel outside your area. Only essential shops will be open. Hospitality venues will be closed but can offer takeaways.

Keep socially distanced (two meters apart) from anyone outside your household. Find out more about your local protection area level and the restrictions in place.

Northern Ireland 

From 16 October 2020 there will be additional restrictions in place in Northern Ireland, for four weeks. This will include: 

  • no overnight stays in private homes that don’t form a part of your social bubble 
  • a reduction to social bubbles, with up to 10 people from two different households 
  • no unnecessary travel 
  • no more than six people to gathering a private garden from no more than two households 
  • limiting gatherings outdoors to 15 people, unless this is a part of a sporting event. When meeting outdoors, social distancing measures must be followed, with the two meter rule in place in Northern Ireland. 

The Department of Agriculture , Environment and Rural Affairs states that, ‘there are no restrictions on the use of animal care services or on training or exercising animals during the pandemic.’ 

Check restrictions in Northern Ireland for more information. 

Yes, you can walk your dog.

People in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently able to exercise outdoors as often as they wish – as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. To follow social distancing, people walking dogs should remain two metres away from people they do not live with or who are not in their support bubble, and use a lead, if necessary, to avoid contact with other people.

How many people you can meet with outside will depend on local restrictions.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus and need to remain at home for 10 days, or 14 days as a household, support bubble, or if you have been told to do so by NHS Track and Trace, 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.

Government guidelines ask dog owners to consider keeping their pets on lead if they are walking them in areas used by other people to make sure 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. 

We always recommend dogs should be kept on lead around livestock to make sure your dog cannot injure livestock or other animals at this time.

Whether you can travel depends on the Covid-19 restrictions in the areas you are travelling to and from. Those from tier two and tier three alert areas in England are now unable to travel into Wales.

From Thursday 5 November, people in England are being asked to avoid travelling in or out of your local area, and to reduce the number of journeys you make. People from outside Wales are no longer allowed to travel into Wales unless it’s essential eg for work or returning home.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, you should avoid any unnecessary travel, so try to stay local to walk your dog. You should also not travel to and from Wales to England unless for an ‘essential purpose’, such as work.

In Scotland, whether you travel depends on your local protection area level.

Wherever you walk, you and members of your household, including your dog, will need to socially distance. Restrictions may vary in certain areas and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so always check locally for specific information.

From Thursday 5 November, you will only be able to exercise outdoors with the people you live with, your support bubble, or one person from another household. You and your dog should stay two metres apart from people from other households.

In Wales, you can go on a dog walk with a member of your own household, extended household or up to four people outside of your household in a socially distanced way.

In Scotland, the number of people you can meet outdoors depends on your local protection area level.

In Northern Ireland, outdoor gatherings in public places must be limited to 15 people.

You can now 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.

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. Those that 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.

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.

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

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.
  • 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

If you have Covid-19, then ideally, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals ie no kissing, cuddling or stroking.
 
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.

While veterinary practices can remain open, many vets are working within government restrictions and may not be able to see as many pets as usual. Routine appointments may 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 before seeing them. Social distancing rules continue to apply in urgent face-to-face appointments, which includes limiting the number of owners present for the consultation. In many 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.

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

If your pet is due to have their boosters or first inoculations, the BVA and RCVS have advised that vets are 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

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. 

As long as your vet practice can carry out this procedure in a socially distanced way with no risk to public health, they will be able to microchip your dog. You will need to book an appointment before you go to the vet practice and speak with them about safety procedures that you’ll need to follow for the appointment.

If your pet is not yet 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.

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. 

How your pet will be put to sleep 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 is 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.

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.

Dog walkers can 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 disinfect the car, 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

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 follow social distancing measures that are 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 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
     

Many dogs do need professional grooming for their own welfare. If your dog does need to see a professional groomer, you are currently 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 may need to wait inside your car until your pet is called in, and wait there or elsewhere while your pet is being groomed. You may 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 can 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.

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 so kennels can follow 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.

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.

Strict handwashing and cleaning routines 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 will be weighed up alongside the public health risk posed by coronavirus to people.

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.

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 our Behaviour Helpline on 0300 777 1975.

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 and, unfortunately, Blue Cross have seen an increase in people paying a deposit for their puppy without meeting them first. 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. If you do buy a pet, make sure 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.

Remember, any puppies going to homes at this time could miss out on many aspects of the vital socialisation period, which helps 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, make sure you 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.
 

From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, stricter restrictions will apply in England which will mean that, during this time, dog training classes, unless online, will not be able to go ahead.

Socialisation is crucial for dogs, and particularly for puppies, so we have 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.

— Page last updated 20/11/2020

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