With social distancing orders in place and many people staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there’s been a drastic change to our daily routines – for both us and our pets.
While many of our four-legged friends will be thrilled at spending more time with the family, staying inside more and adapting to changes in diet or exercise could leave our pets feeling stressed or confused.
Ipswich Family Veterinary Clinic’s Dr Milan Savkovic said that dogs and cats could be kept happy and healthy during this period, provided pet owners were prepared.
“Organising a supply of food is important,” Dr Savkovic said.
“Think about what medications your pet needs and discuss with your vet so you have enough for about 4 – 6 weeks, as well as any preventative treatment.”
While taking dogs for daily walks around the neighbourhood are encouraged, Dr Savkovic said it was important to remember to practise social distancing with fellow dog walkers.
“You should be keeping a distance from others, so you should not be letting people pet your dog,” Dr Savkovic said.
“It’s difficult because as humans we’re very social creatures, so it feels natural to stop and chat to others walking the dog, but you need to talk from a distance now.”
As well as spending time in the backyard, Dr Savkovic encouraged people to think of new ways to keep pets mentally stimulated while spending more time indoors.
“Look at enriching the environment with more toys or jump on the internet and see if you can educate your dog by teaching it some new tricks,” Dr Savkovic.
“That will help kill some time in isolation and also keep both you and your dog mentally stimulated.
“Try to spend more time playing with your cat or dog and have a few new toys for them to use up some of that extra energy.”
But while extra play and exercise is a positive, adding too many extra treats to your pet’s diet is best avoided.
“Very importantly, do not overfeed your pet and cut down on treats,” Dr Savkovic said.
“It can be really tempting if you’re at home all day to give your dog treats as an expression of your love. But it will do more damage than good, and if they’re not having as much exercise, it’s really important not to overfeed your dog.”
“Toys that are designed for dogs and cats to eat slower can help with this, as they have to work to get to the treat which is inside a ball or toy.”
Vets are classed as an essential service and remain open, but Dr Savkovic urged people to take social distancing seriously and to stay home if they were showing any symptoms or had recently returned from overseas.
“We are taking lots of precautions at Ipswich Family Veterinary Clinic,” Dr Savkovic said.
“As we can only have one person per 4 square metres, we ask that just one person comes with your pet for the consultation and you don’t bring your children or several members of the family.
“If you’re immuno-suppressed, we are also offering home visits.
“We are here to help people and help your pets, but there’s a lot of pressure right now and we need to do the right thing to keep everyone safe and healthy.”