Two guinea pigs sitting together

Small pets and coronavirus

This is a changing situation, but there is no current evidence to suggest that pets can be infected with the new coronavirus or be carriers of the disease. However, we strongly recommend that you maintain a good hand washing regime when it comes to handling small pets like rabbits, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, degus and chinchillas.

Aside from the coronavirus outbreak, 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. Due to the current situation, it is sensible to wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after stroking your pet if they are handled by multiple people in your household as an additional precaution.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals.

Covid-19 is a new strain of the coronaviruses that is affecting humans. 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 advice found on the NHS website.

Are small pets like guinea pigs and rabbits safe to be kept outside?

If your guinea pigs and rabbits are normally kept in outdoor housing, they should remain there. There is no current evidence that they can catch Covid-19 or that they can spread it, so they can continue to enjoy the great outdoors.

I have an indoor small pet; how can I reduce the risk of coronavirus?

Coronavirus is not currently known to be a risk to small pets. However, it’s good practice to keep your pet’s food and litter areas clean. Keeping your small pet mentally stimulated will keep active minds busy, too. There are many fun ways to create enrichment for your pets that will entertain you both during periods of social-distancing and self-isolation due to coronavirus.

Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your pet too – this helps keep the spread of bacteria to a minimum.

How do I protect my small pet from coronavirus?

If you have Covid-19 then, ideally, you’ll restrict contact with your small pet ie no kissing, cuddling or stroking. Although 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 are ill and have sole responsibility of your small pet with no help, then be sure to wash your hands before and after handling them and wear a facemask, if you have one available.

Can I still take my pet 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.

Can I still get the medication my pet 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 pet’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. Your vet will be able to advise you if extra precautions are needed.

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.


— Page last updated 26/03/2020

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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.

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