Derbyshire vet highlights Covid danger from dog walking

Published on: Friday, 29th January 2021

A Derbyshire vet has warned that dog owners are unwittingly putting others in danger when letting their pets off the lead during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr John Rosie is advising pet owners that they should be doing more to protect themselves and others against the dangers of coronavirus.

John said many owners were unaware of Government guidelines recommending that dogs should be kept on a lead in areas where other dogs and people might be walking.

Not only does this ensure your ability to remain two metres apart from other walkers, but also that the potential danger of transmitting the virus through contact with a dog’s fur is significantly reduced.

Although there is limited evidence that animals can transmit Covid-19 to humans, or vice versa, there is some concern that fur could act as a fomite, or be capable of carrying an infection, and therefore provide a method of transmission if owners and others are stroking their pets.

“Many dog owners are simply not aware of the rules around walking their pets,” said John. “I would urge all dog owners to make themselves familiar with the Government guidelines, which clearly advise against letting your dog off the lead in public areas.”

He said that many owners incorrectly felt the rule was there to reduce human-to-human contact when dogs ran up to other dogs and needed to be separated.  “But I think the rule is more due to the fomite danger, and is actually there to prevent people touching a dog’s fur,” said John.

Some reports have emerged worldwide of cats and dogs themselves showing symptoms of Covid-19, and John's warning comes as experts from the University of East Anglia, Earlham Institute, and the University of Minnesota wrote in the journal Virulence, that continued evolution of the virus in animals followed by transmission to humans "poses a significant long-term risk to public health". 

In comments issued to the press this week, they said: "It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might...be necessary to curb the spread of the infection."  Despite this, little data exists about the prevalence or level of danger involved, largely due to the fact that animals are not routinely tested.

“There’s a lot of chat in closed industry circles about the need for more testing of pets and other animals,” said John. “The potential for the virus to survive on fur for any length of time is probably minimal, but without the evidence we need to be safe rather than sorry, and dog owners must always wash their hands after they’ve had contact with a dog.”

Dog owners can find the latest Government guidelines on pet care during the pandemic at: www.gov.uk

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