COVID-19 and animals
Animal owners should always use good hygiene practices, including washing their hands before and after touching animals, food or equipment.
For more information about COVID-19 and domestic animals, visit the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The COVID-19 outbreak in people is different to the canine enteric coronavirus that only infects dogs.
What to do with my pets if I am in quarantine due to COVID-19?
The current spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is due to transmission between people. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises there is no evidence of companion animals spreading COVID-19 to people.
However, if you have tested positive for COVID-19 it is recommended that you avoid close contact with your pets and have another member of your household care for your pets, if possible. If you must look after your pet, you should maintain good hygiene, including washing your hands before and after touching animals, food or equipment.
Unfortunately, if you are in home quarantine, you are unable to take your pet for a walk or exercise outside your home. However, you can still keep your pets mentally stimulated by:
- giving them multiple smaller meals rather than one or two larger meals
- playing fetch games inside the home if you have a suitable area
- teaching your pet a new obedience command or trick
- providing a treat dispenser toy.
In some situations of home quarantine, you may be able to play fetch or games with your pet in your yard. It’s best to talk through these options with the local Public Health Unit in your area, or the emergency health officer who provided your quarantine direction notice.
It’s best your pet remains with you while you quarantine or isolate.
To prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 to the community, it’s not recommended to ask friends, family or neighbours to walk your dog while you’re in quarantine.
If you’re in quarantine and your pet becomes unwell, it is important to remember not to break quarantine to take your pet to the vet. By doing this, you could put your vet, their nurses and other pet owners at risk of infection.
It’s always a good idea to ring your vet first, let them know you’re in home quarantine and discuss the best way to work with you to ensure your pet will receive the care they need, while they can keep themselves and their staff safe. There may be an option for the vet to provide telehealth services for your pet.
It's best to ask for advice on how to care for your pet from home. If your pet needs to be seen, you should ask family, a friend or a neighbour to take your pet to the vet, or even see if your vet can deliver any medication.
What to do with my pet if I test positive and have to go to hospital?
If you are hospitalised or must quarantine in accommodation that is not your usual residence, and there is no one in the household to care for your pets, other arrangements need to be made for the care of your pets. This may include arranging a boarding kennel or cattery, or a second option could be to send them to the home of friends, family or a neighbour for the duration of your quarantine period, if it is possible to do so in a COVID-safe way.
Pet owners have a duty of care for their animals including ensuring they receive adequate food, water, care and treatment. You should have an emergency plan in place for the care of your pet, just in case you become unwell or are hospitalised. The plan may include:
- having an emergency kit ready with leads, collars, dry food or medicines that your pet needs
- ensure your emergency kit has been sanitised and placed outside for someone to collect
- make sure you have all emergency contacts written down for the kennel or person that may care for your pet
- also tell someone else what your emergency plan is so they can make arrangements for you, if needed.
Caring for animal welfare during COVID-19 response
After your health and the health of your family, the welfare of your animals is paramount.
As an animal owner, it's important that you provide for the welfare of your animals during COVID-19, but you need to do so in a way that adheres to advice and restrictions in place to protect human health.
Some examples of necessary care of animals include:
- purchase of food or medication for your animals
- to feed or maintain the welfare of animals in your care
- ensuring a sick or injured animal receives veterinary attention
- walking your dog as long as you abide by social distancing rules (this is not possible for people in quarantine).
Wildlife carers (paid or volunteer) may also continue to collect sick or injured wildlife if necessary.
You have a duty of care for your animals including ensuring they receive adequate feed, care and treatment. Having a plan in place to ensure the welfare of your animals may also provide you with peace of mind.
Develop a plan
To ensure the welfare of your animals (whether livestock, pets, or exhibited animals) during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should develop a plan for how you will meet your animals' needs in the event that you or other people who care for your animals become sick, or restrictions make it difficult to maintain existing arrangements to support your animals. Having a plan will help you look after yourself and your animals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You will need to review and update your plan as the situation changes.
The plan should cover:
- basic feed and care arrangements for your animals
- how you will be able to secure sufficient feed to get you through a possible self-isolation period
- who will look after your animals if you become sick and can no longer care for them appropriately
- contact details for your local veterinarian and emergency veterinary clinic
- how to secure any medications that are required for your animals.
Work with your veterinarian if your animals require critical ongoing or long term medication. Be mindful that veterinary clinics may also be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and operating at a different level of service to normal (e.g. social distancing requirements, services provided). Your veterinarian will be able to advise you of alternatives if they are not in a position to see or treat your animal to ensure the continuity of veterinary care.
If you are sick it is always best to avoid contact with animals as a general precaution.
- Read the COVID-19 health advice.