There are a number of ways you can prepare for the possibility that you or a close contact will contract COVID-19 and simple precautions you can take to keep you and your pets safe.
There is no evidence that companion animals play a role in the spread of this human disease and most are not easily infected under natural conditions [1–4]. However, some companion animals do become infected and a small number of those infected can become ill. Some animals such as ferrets, hamsters and cats are more susceptible than others like dogs. Please see this article for more information.
The human-animal bond people share with their companion animals is very important and can provide much needed support, comfort and companionship to people in these difficult times. So, if possible, people and their companion animals should stay together for the benefit of both.
Here’s some basic advice to help you prepare for if you or someone in your family contracts COVID-19 and are in mandatory home isolation:
You can keep your pets with you in home isolation but there are some simple precautions that should be taken:
- Sick people should stay away from others (humans and animals). As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people and animals in your home .
- Sick people should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people .
- Although it is unusual, some pets and other animals can get sick if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, it is recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals as a precaution.
- So, when possible, have another non-infected member of your household care for your animals while you are sick with COVID-19.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them. Also follow the same advice as for interacting with other people who are not sick; avoid exposing animals to you shedding the virus when you sneeze or cough (cover your mouth and nose with a hand/tissue/elbow/face mask when coughing and sneezing to prevent infectious droplet spread) and avoid having animals who have been in contact with sick people interact with other people who are not sick, as an extra precaution.
- Pets who have been in contact with people who have COVID-19 should not interact with people outside of the household. Think of them as being in self-isolation like the rest of the family. So, in this situation they should stay on your property and not be taken out or walked outside the property by other people. If your living arrangements don’t allow for this (e.g. If you own a dog, and your home does not have a private courtyard or garden) you will need to find someone else (ideally someone who has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19) to care for your pet.
- As always, good hygiene is critical; hygiene measures should include hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food with animals .
- Make sure you have adequate supplies for your pet – including food and any medications. You should have a minimum of 1 month of supply of medication and food available.
- Ensure that you have appropriate carriers/crates available for all your animals, in case they need to be transported.
- If you cannot get supplies personally, try to order products online (many retailers are still able to supply essential products even during lockdowns) or ask friends, family or neighbours to help but avoid direct contact.
- All medications and instructions should be documented (include dosages and how and how often to give the medication and have a script for the medication).
- Ensure that your pet is up to date with their vaccinations, in case it is necessary for them to go to someone else’s home or to a boarding facility.
- Make sure that you have an emergency contact list. This should include the contact details for your pet’s veterinarian (and insurance company if relevant) and anyone else who might be necessary for your pet’s care.
- You should make arrangements for the care of your animals should you need to be hospitalised or if you are required to quarantine/isolate in a quarantine/isolation facility away from your home. Please see this article for more detailed advice.
For more detailed information on coronavirus and animals please visit the links in the references.
To protect each other and our communities, please isolate if you are unwell or under stay at home orders/movement restrictions/lockdowns. In simple terms, think of the people and animals that you are sharing your home with and who you are in contact with as needing to stay isolated within a bubble. They/you should only have contact with each other to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus to any of you or to anyone else. If one of you is exposed in any way, this will result in all of you being exposed, so take extra precautions just to be safe and to protect your family unit of people and pets and the community. Be kind to yourselves and your pets during what is likely to be a challenging, frightening and frustrating time for everyone.
There are some simple but important steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your own pets and neighbours’ pets in the case of an emergency. We have prepared these interactive PDFs to help you prepare your emergency plan for your animals:
- Emergency Animal Authorisation Form
- Emergency Animal Preparedness Plan
- We also have “Animals Inside Cards” for you to print and fill out and put on your doors/windows to alert first responders that you have animal(s) in your home needing assistance in case of emergency.
The Pet Emergency Plan initiative is funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, and has been developed by RSPCA South Australia in partnership with the Commonwealth and State Government of South Australia.
If you are facing challenges caring for your animals, please get in touch with your local RSPCA to discuss options; we are here to offer support and help if possible.
Please note that there are many things that are currently unknown about this virus and the risk it poses to pets and from pets to humans. This information has been prepared with the best and most current information available at the time but things are changing rapidly as the situation evolves.
 World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (2020) Questions and Answers on the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
 Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) (2020) Update on report of transmission from human to pet dog in Hong Kong
 World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) (2020) Information for veterinarians on the novel coronavirus