Coronavirus: Finding support and services for your pet

The outbreak of coronavirus continues to cause concern and anxiety for many of us. It's important that pet owners have a plan that keeps them and their pets safe and healthy during this difficult time.

Our guide will help you consider what steps you should be taking to give your pets the best possible care and treatment while stuck at home.

Don't forget, Bought By Many customers have unlimited free access to the FirstVet app, which allows you to video call a UK-registered vet any time you're concerned about your pet's health. Find out how to use it here.

And we have the latest information about coronavirus and pets and how our insurance can help here.

We also have advice on how to keep your pet happy and healthy at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

For latest the latest government guidance please check the official website gov.uk/coronavirus

Visiting your vet

Vets across the country have been following government and NHS guidance. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) initially advised that veterinary practices should only offer emergency treatement during the first three weeks of restrictions from 23 March to 13 April.

The BVA have now stated that it's appropriate that some essential work, beyond urgent and emergency care can now be considered to help protect animals and maintain their welfare during the extended period of restrictions. They've advised that vets should continue to use their professional judgement and risk assess individual cases.

Vets should continue to provide services in a manner that supports social distancing, while ensuring that animals are only seen face-to-face where absolutely necessary.

You should phone your vet directly if you are unsure whether your pet requires urgent treatment.

If you have a persistent cough or high temperature you should not visit your vet.

Our partner FirstVet is offering a video vet service free to all UK pet owners between the hours of 12pm to 5pm until 30 April. Bought By Many customers have unlimited free access to FirstVet 24/7.

For the latest on measures taken by vets see our coronavirus and pets page.

Other vet clinics providing online services include:

  • Blue Cross - All UK stores have now closed but pet owners can still receive online and telephone consultations by calling for advice and visiting its website.
  • Vets Now - It is pet emergency service and specialist veterinary care. It has over 60 out-of-hours vet sites in the UK.

Maintaining food supplies for your pet

Pet stores and food suppliers in the UK are remaining open but you should telephone your local pet store or visit their website to find out what measures they have put in place in response to coronavirus.

If you're planning on ordering pet food online, pet stores are experiencing high demand and deliveries may take longer than usual. You should ask about current stock levels and delivery plans as this will help you plan ahead.

Make sure you have enough for a few days but there is no need to panic buy. It's important there's enough pet available for all owners, include those working on the frontline of the health service.

If you've not previously ordered pet food online, you might want to consider the following pet stores.

  • Pets corner - Most of their stores remain open
  • Tails.com - Open for business
  • Pet Supermarket - Experiencing some delays
  • Petplanet - Open for business but experiencing delays
  • Monster Pet Suppliers - Experiencing very high demand

If you have to visit a store, you should expect measures in place limiting contact to protect staff and customers. If you are self-isolating, and you have placed an order online or by phone, ask if your order can be delivered and left in a designated place of your choice that will help minimise contact.

Look for regular updates from your usual pet food supplier so you're aware of any changes to stock levels and delivery plans.

Medicines and regular treatments

In the first three weeks of restrictions, the BVA advised veterinary practices in the UK to postpone all routine, elective and preventative treatments, such as general health checks, jabs, nail clips, neutering operations and dental treatment.

This has now been revised slightly. Their guidance says that following a risk assessment both for animal health and welfare and with regard to Covid-19, primary vaccinations can go ahead, due to the increased risk of disease outbreak over a longer period of time. However, vets have warned this may not be possible for all pets. Learn more about puppy and kitten vaccinations during the coronavirus outbreak.

Services such as: neutering, microchipping, flea and worm treatment may now be carried out in some circumstances but the BVA advise that it does not mean that all these activities/procedures have to be, or should be carried out.

Vets have been advised to risk assess each case and exercise their clinical and professional judgement.

The BVA has encouraged vets and other prescribers and retailers of veterinary medicines to continue with normal ordering patterns to maintain appropriate stocks of veterinary medicines.

Pet owners should plan to have extra monthly preventative medication for conditions like flea, tick and heartworm along with prescriptive medication. But don't bulk buy more than you need.

Keeping regular communication with your vet is important and you should call them to discuss treatment plans if you have any concerns.  Check whether arrangements can be made for any repeat prescriptions to be posted to you or collected from outside the vet practice.

You may want to consider ordering pet healthcare products online. The following businesses provide this service.

  • Pet Drugs Online - You can order vitamins, prescriptions and supplements for your pets.
  • VetBox - A subscription service for routine treatment such flea, tick and worming.
  • VetUK - You can order prescription only medicines online.

Contacting pet sitters

With many people's travel plans disrupted, pet owners may need to consider cancelling pre-arranged bookings with pet sitters.

If you have to cancel a booking you should immediately check the cancellation policy your sitter has. You may be entitled to a refund but this will depend on the  terms and conditions.

Demand for pet sitters has fallen since people have been advised to stay at home but if you are self-isolating and concerned that your dog is not getting enough exercise, you may want to consider using a dog walker to provide some form of care. Or see if friends, family or neighbours can look after your pet for a short period.

If you or a family member have an unexpected stay in hospital, see how Bought By Many pet insurance may be able to help with emergency pet minding.

National pet sitting businesses and community platforms that may be available include:

  • Pawshake: An online platform connecting pet owners with local dog walkers and pet sitters. They offer: Dog boarding, dog walking, dog sitting, and doggy day care
  • Rover: A dog sitting platform that helps dog owners connect with a network of pet sitters and dog walkers.
  • House My Dog: An online platform offering pet sitting services across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

As a pet owner, you can still walk your dog yourself. However, dog owners are advised to limit any walks to one walk per day and to remain at least two metres away from another person and their dog.

If you're a cat owner, they still need acess outdoors or to a clean litter tray. Cats can still go out as normal unless the government says otherwise.

Finding a dog walker

With so many people unable to leave their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak.  A growing network of volunteer dog walkers are starting to help people.

Charities across the country are offering services for the elderly, vulnerable, and those who have to self isolate, alongside more established dog walking businesses.

Government guidance continues to urge that people walk their dogs locally, and if you intend to use a dog walker to walk and exercise your dog, this should be taken into consideration.

Your local community

Don't forget to keep up to date with what's happening in your local community. If you need support and advice on looking after your pet or your own health and wellbeing there may be local groups and organisations that can help you.

You can find a number of community groups on social media, while local websites and newspapers regularly give updates and news on how people are providing support and services in response to coronavirus.