Caring for your pet if you have to self-isolate during the COVID-19 outbreak

25 March 2020

The following information is based on the current advice. This article will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in companion animals

At present, there is no evidence suggesting companion animals including dogs or cats can infect humans with COVID-19. The current evidence shows that spread is via human to human transmission.

However, if you need to self-isolate there might be an impact on your pet’s health and wellbeing.

What to do if you do not have COVID-19 and you are not self-isolating

To help slow the spread of COVID-19 Australians now can’t hold weddings, funerals and parties or any kind of celebration involving more than ten people.

If you have not tested positive for coronavirus and have not been asked to self-isolate, then you should continue to interact with your dog or cat as normal.

However, with the majority of Australians being asked to stay at home and limit our contact with other people means that you will need to be mindful when you are out walking your pet. Keep a safe distance from other people, and if we all work together we can ensure that we don’t all end up walking our pets at the same time.

While going to dog parks is still ok, as per the 1.5m2 distancing rule, try go when less people are there to minimise risk of transmission.

In the home good hand hygiene using soap and water before and after contact with any animal is always recommended. Also please avoid kissing your pet, try not to let them lick you, and don’t share food with them. It protects you against common bacteria including E.coli and salmonella that can pass between animals and humans.

Finally, in the event that a wider recommendation to self-isolate comes into effect, or that you or a member of your family specifically is asked to self-isolate, you should ensure that you have a good supply of your dog or cats’ favourite food, cat litter and/or any medication.

What to do if you need to self-isolate

The good news? There are many things you can do to ensure you pet is as safe as possible.

If it is at all possible, arrange for another person to care for your dog or cat, until you’re able to return to normal.

If you are getting low on pet food there are many online pet food stores that deliver. Also, check to see if a friend can organise some additional food while you are unable to leave the house.

Excellent hand hygiene using soap and water after contact with your pet, or their bedding, food, toys or littler area is important. Additional advice includes.

  • Cats: Puss will still need access to a clean litter tray, and outdoor cats can go in and out as normal – but remember to bring your cat in at night. There are plenty of online resources to help you keep your kitty entertained indoors.
  • Dogs: It’s best you do not take your dog beyond your house or garden for exercise. However, at present if you avoid people completely, you should be ok. There are lots of ways to keep your dog happy and healthy without going for walks. These include other activities such as playing with them or teaching them a new trick. Our partner Hill’s Pet Nutrition have compiled some handy enrichment activities to keep your pooches entertained. Remember your dog will still need regular access to toilet outdoors.
  • Rabbit/guinea pigs: Ask a friend to get you some extra fresh veggies to keep their diet in check. If you cannot, there are alternatives. Please call your local vet to discuss what will work best for your bunny or pig.
  • Other pets: If you need to buy food, check with your usual supplier to see if there is a contactless collection or potential delivery option. If not, many of the online pet food stockists that cater to dog and cat food often stock food for other exotic pets.

If you are concerned about your pet’s health and wellbeing, Lort Smith is still offering essential services. Call 9328 3021 for advice on what you should do – but do not go in person.

What to do if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19

As stated above, currently there is no evidence suggesting companion animals including dogs or cats can infect humans with COVID-19. The present evidence shows that spread is via human to human transmission.

If you have tested positive to COVID-19 let your GP know you own a pet. So be on the safe side, limit contact with your pet. Try to avoid petting, cuddling, and especially kissing/allowing licking/sharing food.

Wash your hands before and after any interaction, and if possible, try to arrange for a friend or family member to care for your pet in their own home until you have recovered and have been advised that you no longer need to self-isolate by your GP.

  • Dogs: You will not be allowed to leave your property for the duration of your isolation, so walking your dog outside your property is not allowed.
  • Cats: If you cat roams outdoors during the day, it might be best to keep them indoors to give yourself peace of mind as you will not be able to leave your property, should they wander off and not return.

If your furry friend shows signs of illness, call your vet to discuss your pet’s condition. Do not leave the house to see the vet in person.

What if you are hospitalised due to COVID-19 and can’t take care of your pet?

If you have pet insurance, please check your policy or call your insurance provider to see if it covers emergency boarding due to hospitalisation.

If you do not have pet insurance and find yourself in hospital, please contact your hospital’s social worker for assistance.

Visiting Lort Smith during the Australian lockdown

As of 30 March 2020, Lort Smith will continue to offer only emergency, urgent and essential care to animals..

While we wait for confirmation on our essential service status, we are currently working with the Australian Veterinary Association and government departments to provide infection control and risk management resources to ensure we comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

If you are concerned about the health and wellbeing of your pet, please call your local vet or Lort Smith on 9328 3021 to see if your pet needs to be seen.