Coronavirus warning: Is it safe to let dog walkers take your dog out in groups?

Coronavirus has now been confirmed in 163 UK patients and one person has died from the virus. Hand sanitiser is now flying off the shelves as people try to protect themselves against COVID-19, while calls to NHS 111 is on the rise.

To be clear, you are only deemed ‘at risk’ if you:

  • Have travelled back from one of the confirmed affected areas within the last 14 days
  • Have come into contact with another individual who has been positively or suspectly diagnosed with Coronavirus AND you have symptoms such as a fever, cough or breathing difficulties

But many are also worried about their pets, after a dog tested positive for a week strain of the virus.

While your pooch can’t pass the coronavirus on to other humans, what does that mean for your dog walker?

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Is it safe to let dog walkers take your dog out in groups?

Caroline Reay, Head of Veterinary Services at Blue Cross told Express.co.uk it is safe to take your dogs out in a group in most circumstances.

She said: “The coronavirus outbreak is an evolving situation but if the dog walker is healthy and hasn’t been at risk of infection, then it is safe for them to take your dog out, as there is no current evidence that pets or companion animals can be infected with the new coronavirus or that dogs play a role in the spread of human disease.

“However, as with people, if you become sick with the virus it is recommended that to limit contact with pets and other animals and, where possible, have another member of your household care for them.

“If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, The WSAVA Global Veterinary Community recommends you wash your hands with soap and water before and after contact with your pet and wear a facemask.”

What to do if you think your pet is ill?

The signs of coronavirus can easily be confused with other diseases, so pet owners are advised to seek veterinary advice if your cat or dog has diarrhoea that does not resolve within 24 hours, or is associated with significant lethargy or loss of appetite.

Dr Jessica May, UK Lead Vet at video vet service FirstVet, said: ”Given that we are in the midst of a Covid-19 outbreak, and animal-based coronaviruses do exist, people are, naturally, concerned that they could contract the disease from their pets and vice versa.

“As it stands, animal coronaviruses are not showing increased numbers; however, if you believe that your pet is showing even mild signs, it would be useful to contact a video vet service, such as FirstVet, before rushing to your vet clinic.

“This reduces the risk of spreading infectious diseases, reduces the stress associated with taking your pet to the clinic, and the vet will be able to provide the most appropriate advice for you and your pet. “

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Can your dog catch coronavirus?

After repeated testing on the dog which tested weak positive, Hong Kong SAR Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) put the dog in isolation and repeated further tests.

A statement confirms there is still no evidence at this time that dogs and cats could be a source of infection to other animals or humans.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association urges pet owners in areas where there are known human cases of COVID-19 to continue to follow the information in its Advisory, including washing their hands when interacting with their pets and, if sick, wearing face masks around them.

British Veterinary Association President Daniella Dos Santos said: “The current advice from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) remains that the predominant route of transmission is human to human.

“Further advice from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association is that there is currently no evidence that pets can be infected with Covid-19 and this remains the case at the time of commenting.

“The reported case of the Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong is undergoing further tests and it would be inappropriate to speculate until we know more.

“These tests should be able to determine whether the dog tested positive due to environmental contamination from the infected owner.

“Our advice to vets and pet owners is to follow Public Health England and NHS advice and guidance.”

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