Dalmatian dog lying on back of sofa on windowsill looking sad

Coronavirus in dogs

There is no evidence that pets can be infected with the new coronavirus or be carriers of the virus. 

It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after stroking your pets for protection against other bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella.

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?

The Prime Minister has announced that for a minimum of three weeks from the evening of Monday 23 March, the British public may only leave their homes for limited necessary reasons. 

One of these reasons is “for one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household”. This exercise does include walking your dog. If you don’t have symptoms of coronavirus, you may leave your home once a day to exercise, including walking your dog.

Defra added on Friday 27 March that time outside should be minimised, and people walking dogs should remain two metres away from others – except those in your household – at all times on your dog walk.

If there is more than one person in your household, each person can take your dog out at different times so your dog gets more than one walk.

Groups of people are not allowed to gather outside, however you may exercise with members of your household. Gatherings in parks “will be dispersed”.

The government has clarified that if you have symptoms of coronavirus and need to remain at home for seven 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 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 seven 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.

Can I walk my dog off the lead?

There are no restrictions requiring dogs to be walked on lead during the coronavirus outbreak, however 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.

Keep you and your dog at least two metres from others to follow social distancing measures.

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

People are being asked to take one form of exercise a day, and this includes walking your dog. If you don’t have a garden, you can take your dog for a walk around your local area, as long as you follow the guidelines to keep two metres apart from others.

If your dog needs to go to the toilet more than once a day, which we recognise most dogs do, you can take them to just outside of your home; making sure to follow the social distancing measures and minimise your time outside.*

*Please note that we are waiting for further guidance on this specific query from Defra and this advice may change.

Is it safe to put my dog in 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. But you should not leave your home in order to get them to a boarding kennel. Make arrangements for your dog to be taken there safely, while keeping two metres apart during any handovers to comply with social distancing rules. Ensure any leads and equipment are disinfected. 

There is no current evidence that pets or companion animals can be infected with the new coronavirus or be carriers of the disease, but it can travel on their fur as it can on our own hands. Before arranging for your dog to go into kennels, limit handling and wash your hands before and after stroking them.  Kennels will also need to apply stringent handwashing guidelines when taking in any pet due to the risk of it being carried on fur.

Is it safe to let dog walkers take my dog out in groups?

The coronavirus outbreak is an evolving situation. Blue Cross is currently seeking guidance on how professional dog walking has been affected from the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra). We will update this page as soon as we get clarification.

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 take my dog to the vet?

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

If you think your pet needs to be seen as an emergency case, contact your vet. Social distancing rules continue to apply in urgent fact-to-face appointments, which includes limiting the number of owners present for the consultation. Policies between veterinary practices may vary.

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, consult your vet to see if this can be postponed. If 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 be kept away from public areas. If your pet is affected by this, take a look at ideas for indoor play and exercise

What measures are in place for euthanasia of pets?

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. Social distancing measures must still apply to appointments in which pets are put to sleep, to keep both vet and owner safe. Your vet will be able to advise you on how these policies are being implemented at your practice. Our 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.

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 drive somewhere to take my dog for a walk or should I walk from my home?

Government guidelines ask people to avoid travelling unless it is essential. Travel that is not essential includes driving to go on holiday or to live at second homes.

While the government has not specifically said people should not drive for dog walks, some police forces are advising that exercise should be taken on foot or bike from your home address. Some local authorities have closed the car parks of popular walking and hiking areas.

Can a professional dog walker/sitter look after my dog for me if I’m a key worker with long shifts?

UK residents are being asked to work from home where possible and follow the stay at home measures, however there are many people doing essential jobs that need to do this in their workplace, including NHS workers and care staff.

Often these job roles come with long shifts of many hours, which are too long to leave a dog home alone. 

We have been contacted by some professional dog carers who have told us as they are not on the key worker list, they believe their insurance is not valid for this period.

We are urgently seeking clarification from Defra on whether it is possible for professional dog sitters/borders/walkers to carry on looking after the dogs of key workers while they are at work, and will update our advice as soon as we have official confirmation.

We will be updating this advice as more information becomes available.

— Page last updated 27/03/2020

Did you find this helpful?

We provide free pet advice as every pet deserves to be well looked after. We treated around 35,000 sick injured and homeless pets last year. We're so glad we've been able to help these pets who are unable to help themselves, but there are thousands of sick and lonely pets still in need, so we need to ask for a small favour.

All of our work is funded entirely through donations. People like you are essential to our work. If everyone who benefits from our articles is able to give a little back, we can reach thousands more pets. For as little as £1 you can make a difference - do you have one minute? Thank you.