Caring for your dog during the coronavirus pandemic

Last updated 3 April 2020

To protect the most vulnerable in our community it’s vital that we all work together to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Reducing social contact goes against our nature, but for dog owners, self-isolation creates an extra set of problems.

Summary

  • You can still walk your dog, so long as you are not quarantined due to coronavirus symptoms in your household. Each adult in your household should only go out to exercise once a day, but you can take it in turns to walk your dog to help keep them active.
  • Be prepared: ensure that you have dog food, poo bags and medicines for your dog to see them through a possible two week quarantine period.
  • If you do go into quarantine, you should not leave your house. You can exercise your dog in your garden or around your home, but if you are unable to do this then you can ask someone to walk your dog for you, but you do need to take certain precautions.

Wash your hands

Currently there is no evidence that dogs are affected by COVID-19, or that they can transmit the virus to other humans (read more about whether dogs can catch coronavirus here). As with any surface, if someone with COVID-19 touches, sneezes or coughs on a dog, the virus could temporarily contaminate them. Although we don’t know how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces, scientists think that it could range from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, how warm it is and levels of humidity.

During this time you should maintain good hygiene practices. Bath your dog often and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after you:

 

  • Feed them
  • Touch them
  • Touch their toys
  • Touch their bedding.

It’s also a good idea to try to avoid them licking or kissing your face and sharing your food with them. This advice is generally good practice as dogs can sometimes carry common bacteria which can also be passed on to humans.

Walking your dog

If you are not quarantined because you, or a member of your family, have shown signs of coronavirus, then you can still take your dog for a walk. The government currently advises that you only leave your house once a day to exercise. This means that:

  • If you live by yourself then, for the time being, you will have to reduce walking your dog to once a day. To help keep your dog stimulated we've provided some hints and tip at the bottom of this article.
  • Households with two or more adults can walk their dog more than once a day if they take it in turns to take the dog out.

When walking your dog you should practice social distancing by avoiding busy areas and keeping at least two meters (or three steps) away from others, particularly those that you think may be vulnerable.

Asking others to walk your dog 

The government measures set out state that you can ask a friend or relative to take your dog out for you if you are self-isolating, vulnerable or elderly, but let them know in advance if you are self-isolating and follow government guidelines and social distancing measures when handing over your dog. Always wash your hands before and after handling your dog and ask whoever walks your dog to do so as well. Advice from the Kennel Club and other experts on how specifically to walk someone else’s dog safely during the pandemic can be found here. 

Further government guidelines on how to safely help others during the pandemic can be found here

Taking your dog to the toilet

So long as you, or a member of your household, has not shown signs of coronavirus then you can take your dog to the toilet, but remember that you should only be going out to exercise once a day. During this difficult time you could:

  • Share responsibility for taking your dog on walks to go to to the toilet with other adults in your household so that they can got out more than once
  • Let them go to the toilet in your garden
  • let them go to the toilet just outside your front door if you do not own a garden.

If you need to take your dog out for a walk to use the toilet, remember to practice social distancing and keep 2 meters, or three steps away from others.

Be prepared and check that you have enough poo bags to see you through a period of quarantine.

If you are quarantined because you, or a household member has shown signs of coronavirus, you should not take your dog for walks to go to the toilet. Instead, give them regular access to the garden so they can go to the toilet there. If you do not have a garden then you should let your dog go just outside your house. 

Dog food

Feed your dog as normal, but take precautions and plan ahead. At some point you may need to go into quarantine and will be unable to leave the house, so ensure that you have enough dog food to see your dog through one week if you live by yourself, or two weeks if you live with others. If you run short, then friends or family may be able to drop these items off for you, but its best to take steps to prevent this now.

If you are unable to get your usual brand of dog food it’s important to introduce this slowly by mixing small amounts of the new food with the old and gradually increase this over a week until you have fully swapped over. If you change a dog’s diet too quickly it can give them diarrhoea.

Visiting the vet

Government advice is to stay at home and avoid others unless absolutely necessary. Unless your dog requires urgent treatment you should avoid visiting the vets. If your dog needs urgent veterinary care during this time, call your local veterinary practice and ask them for advice. All vets will only be providing limited services and may be retaining some stocks that may be useful for human health. Your vet will be able to advise on what services they can offer.

If there is an emergency and you are quarantined because you or a member of your family has shown signs of coronavirus, it is vital that you phone your vet for advice. Do not visit the surgery in person as you could infect other people.

Grooming

We have shared some tips from a groomer on how to manage grooming at home here.

Medicine 

If your dog is on a repeat medication and you are unable to visit the vets, call them for advice. If you are quarantined due to illness then certain prescriptions may be posted or delivered to you, or you may be able to arrange for someone else to pick them up for you.

Visitors to the door

We're all reducing our social contact at the moment, but you may still need to take a delivery of food or a package from the postman. If your dog likes greeting visitors at the door, make sure you secure them in another room before opening it.

Stroking other peoples dogs

We’re all trying to avoid getting too close to other people and it’s best to avoid stroking other people’s dogs too. If you do pet a stranger’s dog, remember to clean your hands with an alcohol based hand gel afterwards, or wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Poisons

One of the most common reasons that dogs are taken to the vets with poisoning is because they have eaten paracetamol or ibuprofen. These are medicines that are found in most homes and so are commonly found by dogs. Since people are concerned about the effects of coronavirus, these medicines are around dogs more frequently than ever before and so dogs are at increased risk. Ensure that any medications are kept out of reach of your dog. If you are unwell and need to take any tablets make sure that you or someone else puts them away in a cupboard that is inaccessible to your dog.

Never put alcohol-based hand wash or disinfectants on your dog, as this could irritate their skin or may be poisonous if it’s licked.

Additional support for the elderly

The Cinnamon Trust is the only specialist national charity that helps the elderly to look after their much loved and much needed companion animals. They have a network of over 17,000 volunteers all over the UK who help owners provide vital loving care for their pets and help keep them together. Be this through walking dogs or fostering when owners might be in hospital. During this time of uncertainty their volunteers are on hand to help the elderly that might be in self isolation or feeling poorly and can’t get out. For further information contact www.cinnamon.org.uk

Quarantine advice

If you have signs of coronavirus try to keep interaction between you and your pet to a minimum. If possible ask others in your household to care for them your while you are unwell. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after feeding your dog, touching them, or touching their toys or their bedding. It’s also a good idea to try to avoid them licking or kissing your face and sharing your food with them. Bath your dog regularly.

Keeping your dog entertained and stimulated

We are all being asked to stay home and although this may be difficult and frustrating for us and our dogs, it is temporary and there are many things that we can all do to help make it easier.

Bored dogs are unable to cope with a lack of stimulation and may show signs of behavioural issues, so it’s important that you supplement their normal exercise routine with activities in your home and garden to keep them entertained.

If you or a member of your household show signs of coronavirus it’s important that you stay inside. You should not take your dog for a walk yourself and if you are unable to exercise them in your home or garden then you can ask someone else to walk them for you, but you should take precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19. 

Keep a routine.

Try to ensure that both you and your dog have a regular routine. If possible, make sure that they get up and go to bed at roughly the same time each day and that they have regular times for feeding and playing. This will help them know what to expect from their day. Try to encourage your dog to have some regular time and quiet periods when they are left by themselves. This will prepare them for when you go back to work and leave them for short periods.

Use food

Use a food puzzle to make meal times more stimulating for your dog, these include bases to put food on, making it more difficult to get to the food, or toys to hide food into. If you do not have one you could order one online or ask a friend or neighbour to pick one up for you.

Scent work can be a great way to keep dogs busy for ages. Try hiding treats around the garden or house and send them off in search of them.

Play with your dog

Most dogs love playing, so a good game of indoor fetch or tug of war can keep them entertained. If you are playing with your dog inside the house try to ensure that they play on non-slip surfaces to avoid injury. Make sure your dog isn’t overdoing it and give them regular breaks and access to fresh water at all times.

Use toys and dental chews to keep your dog stimulated and stop them chewing on things. If you have a number of toys why not try a toy rotation and put one away one day and bringing out another. This may stop them getting bored as quickly and will keep their toys new and exciting.

Think outside the box

Try creating an obstacle course inside your house or in your garden using toys, cushions, blankets, towels or anything you can think of. Get them to jump over a scrunched up blankets, or weave through towers of cushions. Use your imagination and take the time to teach your dog how to run the course.

Dog’s love to chase bubbles, so if you have any in the house get them out and see what your dog thinks of them.

Teach them a new trick

Learning a new trick or command is great mental stimulation for a dog. Get out the treats and try to teach "roll over", "sit" or "paw". YouTube is full of advice and videos on how to train your dog.

Let them go outside

If you have a garden then play outside to give them more things to investigate and smell to help keep them stimulated.

Give them things to watch and listen to

Keep the curtains or blinds open so that your dog can see what’s going on in the outside world. Put a cushion or a chair by the window to let them see outside.

Look for dog friendly podcasts for them to listen to, or TV for dogs on YouTube to provide them with other types of interest and stimulation.

More advice from our friends at other organisations

Find some excellent advice from some of our colleagues that are invested in animal health

Help if you’re struggling with stress or anxiety

During this period of uncertainty many of us are finding it difficult to cope with the events that are unravelling.

Below are a number of resources to help you.

If you know of anyone who may be struggling during these difficult times remember to reach out to them to check they are ok. You may not be able to pop round, but you could connect on social media, or via a text, phone call, email or even a note through their letter box.

Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2020. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.