Coronavirus: Dr Scott Miller on how to keep your dogs and cats happy during lockdown

March 30, 2020

Only being allowed to go for one daily walk during the UK's coronavirus lockdown is posing an issue for the millions of people who own pets.

There are an estimated nine million dogs and eight million cats in the UK who need walking and letting out during the coronavirus lockdown.

For those in the countryside this might be easier; however, with many parks closed to prevent crowds, people in cities are finding it more difficult.

Celebrity vet Dr Scott Miller, who has three practices in and around Richmond, southwest London, shared some tips with Sky News to get the UK's 12 million pet owning households (44% of the population) through the lockdown...

Can I still walk my dog?

It's extremely important to continue to exercise your dog so I'd strongly suggest people take their canine companion with them for their daily exercise.

You're only allowed out on your own or with members of your household so if there's more than one of you it's best if one of you takes the dog out in the morning and one in the afternoon.

If you live by yourself you must make sure you take your dog on your daily walk, as you cannot go out again to walk them.

Make sure you stay on the right side of the rules when you're out - keep away from other people, keep your dog on a lead and pick up their poo.

Can dogs and cats catch coronavirus?

There is no evidence dogs and cats can be affected by coronavirus.

However, the current thinking in the vet profession is that they can potentially carry COVID-19 but are not infectious.

They cannot transmit the virus and will have no symptoms but the virus could be on them.

So, if you had COVID-19 and sneezed on your dog then someone else patted your dog, they could potentially pick it up.

We're not sure how long it can last on an organic surface such as hair but it will be less than a hard surface.

So, the advice is to not touch other people's dogs - it's really hard but you have to be vigilant.

What should I do to keep my dog or cat occupied?

Most dogs think this lockdown is Christmas, "my owners are with me, everyone wants to take me for a walk, I'm getting all the fuss".

But it is a challenge, their social life will be impacted, as ours is - and those of us with pets are feeling quite grateful we have them in our lives.

Going for a run with your dog for your daily exercise, or a long walk, is a good idea.

But mental stimulation can be just as tiring. Kids are often knackered when they return from school because they're using their brain so much - that's the same with dogs.

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Lots of us are thinking about what we can improve in ourselves, that can also apply to our dogs.

You can give them some basic training, teach them new tricks, give them some environmental stimulation and play games.

There are games where they are rewarded by hidden food, you can buy some interactive dog games online as well.

Lots of people are also struggling to keep kids occupied so why not combine the two, get kids involved in training pets.

We've made fishing rod toys for our cats, for example.

You can talk to the kids about training, set up an obstacle course perhaps - two in one!

What should I do with my dog or cat if I am self-isolating with symptoms or have confirmed coronavirus at home?

You should get somebody else to walk your dog, and keep contact with your dog or cat to a minimum.

That person needs to use the dog walk as their daily exercise.

If your cat normally goes outside then you should continue to let them out.

With both dogs and cats you should bath them and possibly wipe them down with anti-bacterial wipes when they come back in.

It might be better to see if a relative or friend can take your dog while you are self-isolating.

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