Doggie daycare: Looking after your pooch during pandemic

Doggie daycare: Looking after your pooch during pandemic
Milly - Denise O'Donoghue's dog.

Denise O'Donoghue's dog is lapping up the extra attention. But vet says owners need to stick to a routine.

Our lives have changed to stem the spread of Covid-19, but so too have the lives of our pets.

Cats which once reigned over an empty house now must contend with loud families all day long.

Dogs which perhaps spent some hours alone or enjoyed endless entertainment at doggy daycare are now overcome with excitement at unprecedented access to their favourite humans.

At a time when we are more conscious than ever about vulnerable members of our communities, we must also spare a thought for our four-legged friends.

Our dog, Milly, has been living the best days of her life since mid-March when we all began working from home.

There are three adults in our home who work opposite shift patterns, so she has never been in want of attention - but now she is thriving upon our affections.

While one or more of us works, another will play with her and bring her for walks. 

Her daily walks have increased thanks to the fine weather, but not drastically. Milly is a mixed-breed whose Collie characteristics are strong - she loves a walk (or three).

She is lucky that we have a garden for her to play in and it's the ideal space for her favourite game - fetch.

On an idyllic day spent tossing her ball in the sunshine, my mind strayed to dogs and their owners who might not have such luxuries. How are they coping cooped up together? 


Doggie daycare: Looking after your pooch during pandemic

I turned to Milly’s vet to see if some owners are struggling at this time. Donal O’Sullivan, a veterinary surgeon at Abbeyville Veterinary Hospital in Cork, says the creation of a new routine is essential.

“For dogs, having their owner at home for more time than normal is exciting, but it is also important to maintain or create routines for them around our new lifestyles.

"By structuring feeding, walking and playtimes, your dog will be more comfortable with current changes,” Donal says.

“Routine also means your dog will be less stressed when things start to return to normal and less likely to be affected by separation anxiety.

Cats are particularly sensitive to changes in routine and can suffer from a variety of stress-related conditions such as overgrooming, aggression and difficulties urinating.

"Busier households should allow the cat to hide and self-isolate as they like with hidey-holes and safe-spaces for them to relax in,” he adds.

Some common issues he has noticed among pet owners include problems accessing their pet’s usual food and fears some breeds may develop matted fur if they go too long without grooming.

“If a change of diet is required, then make sure to do it gradually over a few days to reduce the chance of upset digestion from a sudden change that may lead to vomiting and diarrhoea.

“Owners of pets that require more frequent grooming to prevent painful matting of fur and coats should consider regular brushing. Grooming tools are available to purchase in pet shops.

"Particular care should be taken with anxious dogs that may react poorly to this grooming and to delicate areas such as around the eyes, feet and if clipping nails.”


Doggie daycare: Looking after your pooch during pandemic

Donal recommends maintaining social distancing while walking your dog and keeping it on a short leash and away from pets from other households.

“There is no evidence that animals can spread Covid-19 to humans or other animals,” he says. 

“Animals can potentially act as a vector for the virus, whereby the virus could sit on the fur of the animal and then be picked up by petting or grooming for example.

"It is not thought that the virus can survive longer than a day or two on fur, but strict hand hygiene and washing must be maintained to prevent this.

“Borrowing dogs from other households should be avoided due to the vector risk of transmission. Similarly, dogs from multiple households should not be walked together.

“Particular care should be taken in Covid-19 positive households where pets should be isolated with owners for fear of carrying the virus, as a vector, to other homes.” 

He says owners should not suddenly increase their pet’s exercise if the animal is overweight, arthritic or has other health conditions, such as breathing difficulties or severe heart conditions.

For owners unable to walk their dogs, there are other options.

Doggie daycare: Looking after your pooch during pandemic

“Food toys and food puzzles are a great way to occupy mind and body," says Donal. "Playing hide-and-seek, creating obstacle courses and playing tug-of-war rope games can be great ways to bond also as well as keeping them fit and active.” 

While at home with your pet, all potentially toxic foods and chemicals must be kept out of their reach.

“The recent surge in baking interest means the availability of more foods that are potentially toxic to pets.

"Common household foods toxic to pets include alcohol, grapes/raisins, artificial sweetener xylitol, macadamia nuts, chocolate, coffee/caffeine, onions and garlic, and,  for pet rabbits, avocados. 

"The similar surge in home DIY and gardening may increase the availability of harmful chemicals to your pet that may have a variety of effects. Make sure to lock away all household and garden chemicals after use.” 

If your pet needs medical aid, vets nationwide are still open.

“Veterinary care has been classed as an essential service,” Donal says.

“Vets all over the country have been asked to limit the number of appointments to emergency treatment and care required in the interest of animal welfare.

"If an owner has any query, they should contact their veterinary clinic and ask for advice.”

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