COVID-19 Dog Infection in the U.K. - Advice for Dog Groomers
A dog has tested positive for COVID-19 in the United Kingdom (U.K.) for the first time. The infection was confirmed on the 3rd of November, following tests by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge. While this news may sound alarming and like a cause for concern, what does it actually mean? Let’s look at the facts of the case, and what this confirmed canine COVID-19 case could mean for groomers.
COVID-19 confirmed in U.K. pet dog
A pet dog has tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.K for the first time. The pet was actually being treated for a different, unrelated, medical condition at the time of testing, and is now recovering at home. The pet’s owners had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The evidence suggests that the dog caught the virus from its owners, and not the other way around.
So, can I get COVID-19 from my pet? The U.K. government website states that:
“There is no evidence to suggest that the animal was involved in the transmission of the disease to its owners, or that pets or other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people”.
It’s also important to remember that there have been small numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pet animals around the world already, including a cat in the U.K. So nothing has really changed.
COVID-19 in dogs: symptoms
Luckily, the symptoms of COVID-19 in dogs and cats tend to be mild. On the U.K. government website Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss has said: “It is very rare for dogs to be infected, and they will usually only show mild clinical signs and recover within a few days”. In fact, many animals show no symptoms at all. When they do, the signs include:
Remember, if a pet has these symptoms, it is still very unlikely that they are due to COVID-19. These are common symptoms with many possible causes. If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, call your vet for an appointment.
Pets are not routinely being tested for COVID-19 because it’s so rare, because their symptoms are so mild, and because they don’t appear to be involved in its spread. This saves wasting crucial tests. However, if you or anyone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19 recently, then you must let your vet know.
Do I need to make any changes to my grooming protocols?
We know that animals can catch COVID-19 from close contact with infected people. However, this is uncommon. The measures which you already have in place to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your clients should also protect against you transmitting COVID-19 to the pets you are working with. These include:
If you test positive for COVID-19 and have pets, you should avoid handling them as much as possible during your isolation period, just as you would distance yourself from other people in your household.
There is currently no evidence that dogs or cats can spread the disease to people. However, there is still a theoretical risk that pets could act as fomites, meaning they could carry the virus on their fur or collars and leads. It is sensible to continue to use your own collars and leads where possible and to wipe any belonging to clients with pet-safe disinfectant on admission.
It is also sensible to continue screening clients before their appointments. This means asking them to confirm that no one in the household is showing symptoms, that they are not self-isolating, and that they have not been asked to self-isolate. You then have the option to postpone the grooming, which is sensible given that most grooms could wait a couple of weeks. Alternatively, you can accept the groom but with enhanced biosecurity measures, such as wearing gloves and using a pet-safe disinfectant shampoo.
There is currently no evidence that dogs can transmit the virus to other animals, whereas cats might be able to pass the virus on to other cats. In the rare cases where you are grooming cats from a household where a member has recently tested positive, it’s important to keep these cats isolated from any other cats you have in.
What should I tell clients?
You can reassure clients there is still no evidence pet dogs and cats can transmit COVID-19 to people. You can also reassure them that on the rare occasions when cats and dogs do contract the virus, the symptoms tend to be very mild. It’s also a good idea to remind them about the COVID-19 protocols you still have in place.
If a client is concerned that their pet might have COVID-19, you can explain that this is uncommon, but do direct them to seek advice from their vet as soon as possible. They may well need treatment for their symptoms, even though they are unlikely to be COVID-related.
So, although this is the first case of a COVID dog infection in the U.K., it is not the first case globally. There is still no evidence that dogs or cats can transmit the virus back to people. Also, luckily, the symptoms of COVID-19 in dogs and cats tend to be mild. If a client is concerned about any symptoms in their pet, you should direct them to their vet as usual.