The nations dogs are providing vital companionship and consistency in these uncertain times, especially to those in quarantine. It is, however, important for us to realise that these significant changes can affect them as well. To help them with this, there are some easy measures you can put in place to look after your dog during the current Coronavirus lockdown.
Firstly it is important to know there is no evidence to suggest that dogs can become infected with Coronavirus (covid-19) or transmit the disease; this is a human-to-human virus. So don’t worry, there is no risk to your dog’s health if you happen to become infected, and your dog does not need to be separated from you. There is some evidence to suggest that if you are infected with Coronavirus that the virus may be able to live on your dog’s coat and be transmitted to another person who touches their coat. So, make sure you wash your hands before and after touching them and don’t let you dogs interact with other humans or dogs when out on a walk.
The main reason why your dog can be affected by the current lockdown situation is because of the changes to their normal routine. You and your family are undoubtedly spending considerably more time at home, possibly furloughed or working from home, and children will now be at home all day as schools are closed. Your pet could also only have a more limited amount of time and distance available for their usual walk as per government guidelines. Depending on the age and temperament of your dog, this change in their normal routine could be leading to stress. It is important to assess each individual situation, and seek professional help if you are worried. But my take home message would be to think about your dog, ultimately you know them better than anyone, and then get creative to help create an as normal situation as possible whilst still keeping them stimulated.
There is a lot of advice available online, but some useful tips to help look after your dog during the Coronavirus lockdown are:
- Stuff food inside a Kong toy or in a snuffle matt to enrich their environment if you aren’t able to give them as much exercise as they previously had. This can keep them occupied for hours. Tip: if they go through the food too quickly, freeze them a day or two beforehand.
- Build them a ‘den’ if they don’t have one already. You can help create a comfortable safe place for them to get away and relax, especially useful if you house is suddenly a lot busier with home schooling. Tip: a dog crate with the door open so they can go in and out freely often makes a great den. You can modify by covering with a blanket and put in some cosy bedding/ toys inside.
- Play their favourite game like fetch, but ensure you do this safely as you don’t want to cause any injuries. Although vet practices are open, they are being advised by their governing body – The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, to minimise contact with clients and only see urgent/ emergency cases.
- If you have a young dog or puppy which isn’t able to experience as much during the socialisation and growing phases, consider buying ‘sound programs’ which are available.
Whilst it is important to keep your dog healthy and stimulated at this time, it is also very important to allow time apart from them if that is what you do when you usually go to work. Whilst none of us know how long this lockdown period will go on for, if it lasts for several more weeks, your dog will soon get used to you being around all the time. This could cause even more stress and separation anxiety when you do go back to work and they are then left alone again. For puppies and young dogs, this is very important. To help with this make sure you spend time in a different room in the house to them for periods of the day, or keep them indoors when you are out in the garden. You could also try leaving them at home when you head out to your local shops to buy essential groceries. There are some trainers, as well as all vets, who are available via video call and will be able to help you in this matter.
Finally, during the Coronavirus lockdown, make sure you stay at home to keep you and your whole family (including your pets) safe.
Dr Francois du Plessis MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon