Can coronavirus affect dogs?
A beautiful, brown and white pooch is sitting on the sofa with their paws hanging over the arm.

Can coronavirus affect dogs?

Coronavirus has caused a great deal of devastation in China and continues to spread throughout the rest of the world. As the government plans its strategy for dealing with the virus, we ask… are our dogs at risk?

Here is what we know so far, courtesy of David Tweedle, My Family Vets Vet and Clinical Director at Natures Vet in Somerset…

Dr Dave Tweedle of My Family Pet

Is my dog in danger of catching COVID-19?

So far, there’s very little evidence to suggest that dogs can catch the disease. There’s also no evidence to suggest that dogs can transfer COVID-19 between humans.

However, this is new virus and a rare situation - it’s changing very quickly, so it’s very difficult for anyone to be 100% sure.

If I have flu or flu-like symptoms, do I need to keep away from my pet?

Not altogether, but in the interest of safety and hygiene you may want to keep physical contact to a minimum. COVID-19 is not yet known to affect dogs, but other similar viruses are zoonotic, meaning they can spread between animals and humans.

It’s best to be on the safe side and to be as hygienic as possible. Make sure you wash your dog’s paws with warm, soapy water after a walk, keep their bedding clean, wash your hands regularly and perhaps most importantly, don’t let your dog lick your face!

If I think my dog has been exposed to the virus…

If your dog seems unwell and you think they’ve come into contact with the virus, give your vet a call and make them aware of the situation. In other words, behave as normal but if you think coronavirus has something to do with your dog’s symptoms, be sure to mention it.

Symptoms of illness in dogs can range from tiredness or a change in behaviour to diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures. Symptoms differ depending on the illness your dog is suffering from.

The coronavirus outbreak is commonly (and rightly) referred to in the news as ‘uncharted territory’. The situation is changing very quickly, so it’s important to stay vigilant. Stay on the lookout for advice from a trusted source, and contact a medical professional right away if you have any concerns.

Dogs and face masks

Slowly but surely, life is going back to normal. Part of the ‘new normal’ is face masks – which your dog may find strange. Luckily, there are ways of helping dogs get used to seeing people in masks. Kathleen Pohl, a vet from Zetland Vets in Bristol and My Family Vets, explains further…

Kathleen Pohl from Zetland Vets

Now that face masks are becoming a staple of everyday life, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to seeing them. Here is a handy step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Let your dog see your mask

Start out by simply showing the mask to your dog. Simply hold it in your hand and let them take a closer look.

Once they’ve seen the mask, reward them with a treat. This will help them associate the sight of the mask with positive experiences.

Step 2: Put on your mask

Do this in front of your dog for now. Leave it on for a few seconds and remember to act natural.

Make sure you speak in an upbeat, pleasant voice. You can also try playing games, or engaging in fun activities while you’re wearing it.

Step 3: Repeat, repeat, repeat

Put on your mask in front of your dog multiple times, and at different parts of the day. Try it in the morning, at lunch time, then in the evening while you’re watching TV – this will help it to become a more common sight for your dog. Get your family members on board too. Try it one at a time so you don’t shock your furry friend too much.

Step 4: Walk into the room wearing your mask

Once your dog is comfortable, start to enter rooms while already wearing your mask. As ever, make sure you reward your dog when they see you. This will help them to associate the mask with fun, excitement and tasty treats.

Continue with this until your dog is happy, then start to enter and leave the house wearing your mask.

Step 5: Heading out for walks

Now your dog is happy with seeing you and your household in masks, you’ll have plenty of confidence when it comes to going out for walks. Take treats with you on your walks, and whenever you see a stranger wearing a mask, reward your dog with a tasty snack.

Doggy member Lola

And remember… easy does it

Remember to take it slow, to act natural around your dog and to reward their positive behaviour. Be patient, and remember to stop if your dog seems stressed or uncomfortable.

With the right amount of patience and preparation, your dog will be used to seeing people wear masks in no time!

If you’re concerned about your dog’s behaviour or if they’re especially scared of face masks, have a chat with your vet.

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