How To Care For Pets If Their Owners Have COVID-19?

Posted Dec 15, 2020
You have agreed to look after a pet for a friend or relative that has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in hospital. Find out ways to do this safely.

This is a great thing you are doing and yes, it can be done safely. Here are some pointers:

  • If possible, it is best to look after the pet in your own home rather than keep visiting your friend or relative’s house. This may not be possible for some pets, for example, fish and aviary birds (more on this below).
  • Collection of the pet – if possible your friend or relative should leave the cat already in a carry cage and the dog confined to a room or on a leash, both for easy collection. Wear gloves, mask and if possible a coverall which you can easily take off, place in plastic bag when you leave the premises and later wash. Use a sanitiser on the cage and leash before you place them in your car and remove your protective wear and place in a plastic bag. Don’t bring blankets or beds unless they can be thoroughly washed before use. You also may want to have a change of shoes and place the shoes you wore in a plastic bag for later cleaning.
  • Remember, the risk to you and your family from the pet is minimal but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk further.
    • If possible wash the dog on arrival at your house in an outside area. Wear gloves, mask and eye protection, and use any shampoo that will be suitable.
    • Washing cats is not recommended as they groom themselves, but they should be quarantined in your home for the first 14 days. You may wish to visit the quarantined cat for socialisation and company. That is OK, but wear coveralls that can be taken off and left for use just in the cat’s room and use hand sanitiser after being with the cat. If you don’t feel comfortable visiting the cat, make sure there is plenty of fresh water and regular food, and also toys for enrichment. You could even make enrichment toys for the cat. Always sanitise after visiting the room.
    • If you want to be extra careful, then keep the visiting dog away from your own pets and family members for 14 days.
  • For pets remaining in the original home (fish, birds, reptiles):
    • Keep your visits as short as possible.
    • It may be possible to supply longer-lasting food sources so frequency of visits can be reduced.
    • Wear gloves and a mask, and coveralls and shoes which are shed when you leave and are just used when visiting the possibly infected premises. Try not to touch many surfaces.
    • Sanitise everything that may have become infected while you were in the house.
  • Seek advice from a veterinarian if concerned about the pet you are caring for or need advice about food choices or on-going treatment the pet may be on.

By taking on this extra pet you are rendering a great service to your friend or relative which will give them peace of mind at this difficult time, but also it is the best welfare outcome for the animal.

Dr Mandy Paterson
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