CARING FOR PETS DURING COVID-19 LOCK DOWN

We thought it would be useful to pull some information together on caring for our pets during this unprecedented time, and in particular, what we might need to consider should a beloved companion animal need to be put to sleep while the vets are only covering emergencies and implementing social distancing.

Although we at EASE cannot give any advice, we hope that the following current information from the government is helpful, along with any updates that follow on the government websites.

Defra’s advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 is:

  • Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary animal health measure until more information is known about the virus.
  • If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  • Keep cats indoors if possible and try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practice good hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals play a role in the spread of the disease.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice.
  • If your pet requires emergency treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

GOVERNMENT ADVICE re: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people with animals

Advice for pet owners and livestock keepers on maintaining the welfare of their animals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Published 27 March 2020
Last updated 31 March 2020 — see all updates

From:

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant Health Agency

Contents

  1. Dogs
  2. General advice for all cat owners
  3. Horses, livestock and other animals

We all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

You should follow the current guidance and must stay at home, except for very limited purposes.

The following advice provides further detail for pet owners and livestock keepers on maintaining the welfare of their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

There is no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.

Dogs

Advice if you have symptoms of coronavirus and must remain at home for 7 days, or 14 days as a household

If your dog cannot exercise at home, you should ask someone outside of your household to walk your dog for you.

All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.

Advice if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus

You may leave your house to exercise once a day and you should combine this with walking your dog. In doing so, it is important that you minimise the time spent outside of the home and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household.

All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you may take them, but must remember to wash your hands and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. You must call the vet before going to see them.

Advice for those walking dogs on behalf of someone not able to

You may also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self isolating or being shielded. You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.

General advice for all cat owners

You should wash your hands before and after any contact with your cat.

Horses, livestock and other animals

Advice if you have symptoms of coronavirus and must remain at home for 7 days, or 14 as a household

If you have a horse in livery, you must not visit them whilst you are self-isolating. You should contact your yard manager or vet to make suitable welfare arrangements.

If you have livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, or any other types of livestock you should arrange for someone else who is not self-isolating to care for your animals.

Where this is not possible you should ensure the basic needs of your animals are met. You must make sure you wash your hands before and after handling your animals and ensure you remain 2 metres away from other people.

If you are too unwell to care for your animals and there is no one to help, you should call your local authority.

Advice if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus

You may leave your house to exercise once a day and you should combine this with leaving your house to provide care for your horse or livestock.

It is essential that you minimise the time spent outside of the home and remain 2 metres away from others. You should remember to wash your hands before and after contact with any animals.

If your horse needs urgent attention from a farrier

If your horse requires urgent attention from a farrier, you should phone the farrier to arrange the best approach to meet your horses’ needs. You and the farrier must ensure that you keep 2 metres apart and wash your hands before and after contact with the horse.

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT FROM THE GOVERNMENT WEBSITE:

IF A PET NEEDS TO BE PUT TO SLEEP DURING LOCKDOWN

We haven’t been able to find anything specific about this other than having a pet put to sleep for welfare reasons is covered by urgent or emergency vet care. However, while social distancing rules are in place, we need to be aware that it might not be possible to be with a pet during the procedure, and home visits might not be possible, especially if someone in the household has Covid-19 symptoms. It looks like we would need to phone the usual number for our own vet and ask for advice and information. (If your own vet practice has been closed completely, they should have arranged for another practice to take over the care of their patients during closure.)

Currently Cloud9Vets are still offering home visits for euthanasia, if they have a vet available in the right area, and providing the government guidelines can be met: https://cloud9vets.co.uk/  (Although we are not yet able to recommend them from having had personal experience of having a beloved pet put to sleep at home, they are always very helpful and understanding in replying to any enquiries. Therefore this might be a reassuring option for any pet guardian who would prefer a home visit for their pet’s euthanasia. Understandably, the cost can be higher than using your regular vet.)

My Woollie Moment

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was something to do with sheep, or maybe knitting or crochet, but the story is about a donkey who taught me something important.

I was attending an Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) session as a client.  EFL is where the interaction between the person (client) and the equine (in this case – a donkey) allows gentle reflective learning.  The donkey acts as a mirror.  This happens under the careful supervision of the instructor / facilitator and a ‘watcher’ whose job it is to ensure that both donkey and humans remain safe and free from stress.

I was asked by Sally, my instructor, what I’d like to focus upon in my session.  This was easy to decide as I’d been finding it difficult to handle stress and pressure in my work and was consequently becoming increasingly reactive, which was hard to handle.

After being taken through a short mindfulness and grounding exercise, I was invited to observe the two donkeys who had joined us in the outside arena.  I was asked, “What do you think is going on with the donkeys?  What do you think they’re feeling?”

To me they both looked like they’d prefer to return to their paddock.  These donkeys regularly work in the Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre, where close human contact is the everyday norm, and I didn’t feel that they were particularly interested in engaging, although one of them did glance over at us a few times.

After a reminder about the health and safety aspects of staying within their field of vision and not standing right behind the donkeys where they wouldn’t see me, I was invited to approach whichever of the two donkeys I chose.  At this point Woollie, the larger of the two, appeared more interested than the other in that he was looking at me.  So I slowly approached being mindful of my pace and to ensure he could see me easily.  I went up close enough to say Hello and to stroke his neck, which he seemed to enjoy.  After a short while he moved away and I returned to Sally.  I was asked to reflect on the process.

Before the next step, I was reminded to go to a quiet place within myself, where I could be in the moment, to be with my awareness and to breathe slowly.  This time I was to go up to Woollie and simply stand nearby him without actually doing anything.

Again, slowly and mindfully I approached Woollie and stood quietly in his zone.  I stayed still, consciously bringing myself into what I call my neutral gear, reminding myself ‘to be’ rather than feel the pressure ‘to do’.  Woollie looked directly at me and then purposefully walked over to me, where I waited calmly, somehow knowing that all was well.

He came and stood right by me, so I quietly said Hello again and stroked him.  He moved around, walked off, and I stayed still.  He then came back, this time right up close, and then he gently snuggled his head into me, so we ended up in an equine / human embrace!  It felt incredibly special – he’d actually chosen to be with me – to share a few moments of mutual warmth and connection.

Afterwards, Sally asked me what I’d felt about that experience.  “I loved it!”

What had I learnt from it?  Having taken a moment, I reflected that it showed me how being in that quiet, calm, ‘neutral’ place in myself had allowed the special moment to happen.  Woollie hadn’t been put under any pressure.  It had just happened.

It taught me that I don’t have to keep trying to make stuff happen all the time; instead, I could put the pause button on, and simply wait – ready to respond if I chose, without being reactive.  This was a revelation to me!

Sally continued to gently question me. “How will you take this experience back into your work situation?”

“Well, that is easy – when I start to feel stressed, I’ll remember to press the pause button and have a Woollie Moment!”

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Later, thinking back on the session, I could only wonder and smile to myself at how a donkey had taught me exactly what I needed to learn about the importance of inner stillness and calm.  Thank you, Woollie.

Equine Facilitated Therapy

Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT) is described as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and how you communicate, with the horses reflecting how you interact with others, affect other people and how others affect you. It all sounds good to me!

There was a nervous excitement in me as I turned up at the equine centre.  Ever since I had heard about EFT, I’d wanted to experience it, so here I was – ready with an open heart and open mind.

I’ve always sensed a depth of feeling in equines – no wonder they can form such enduring bonds within their herds, but also with those who care for them.  And I longed to get a bit closer in and to feel it for myself.

The weather that day was awful (following days of lovely sunshine) and not conducive to spending two hours outside in a field of horses. But there was no way I was going to be put off now that the EFT day was finally here.

The session started with a chat about how I was feeling, and what I hoped to gain from the session, and the obligatory health and safety check.  I confessed that I’d forgotten to bring my steel-toed work boots, but my instructor told me that my wellies were just right.  She explained that some of the horses are so big and heavy that if my foot was trodden on in steel-toed boots, the metal would be crushed into my foot.  Mental note to self: keep feet away from hooves!

I explained that the thing I hoped to gain from the session was a moment of deep connection with a horse; perhaps a soul connection.

I was taken through some preparatory exercises to sense what was going on in me and to slow everything down inside.  Having explained about how to approach each horse quietly and with respect for their personal space, and how to read subtle changes in body language, I was let loose into the field of horses.  They were all rather intent on eating, earnestly pulling at the grass or piles of hay, so they were not concerned or interested in my tentative requests to make contact.  But they didn’t mind me there, and I certainly sensed different emotions with the two I did approach.

The smallest horse was a young male.  I felt incredibly emotional in his presence, overwhelmingly so.  I found out later that he’d had a rough start in life.  The other horse, a magnificent Shire, gave me a totally different feeling – sort of quick and excited; he was altogether a more confident, mature horse.  But from both, I got the sense that they were very happy to be living there in that special Equine Centre.

Eventually the rain and cold drove us inside to the stalls.  Housed in here were two of the instructors own beautiful mares.  I had been drawn to them earlier, but respectful of their need for space and privacy as they each had a note to say they had only recently arrived at the Centre and were still settling in.  However, the instructor said that it was fine to greet them, as the signs were there to ensure they weren’t overwhelmed by attention from visitors.

So I quietly approached one of the mares – then it all changed.  I gazed softly at the black Shire mare in front of me.  I let her sniff my hand and gently touched her neck when I felt she was happy for me to do that.   Her long, thick fringe almost covered her eyes but I could see the gentle spirit that shone through.  My instructor explained that she had been through a very difficult few months, having been grief-stricken with the sudden death of her two month old foal.  I felt an incredible tenderness and gently stroked her.  “You can go in with her if you want.” I was told.  Without hesitation, I entered her stall – there we were – one small human and one beautiful and impressively huge Shire mare, together in a few moments of quiet understanding and exchange.  She was incredibly sturdy yet gentle – what a warm, loving spirit.

A lump formed in my throat – her grief was palpable.  I sent her healing thoughts holding my hands on her.  A little later I quietly withdrew, knowing that something had passed between us.

As I walked away afterwards, I reflected on her grief, and on the depth of feelings that these beautiful ‘other people’ have – often not recognised in our world.  But today it was recognised, respected and revered.  What an honour.

Saving Grace

graceIt was a normal sunny summer’s day as I made my way up to the local farm shop with my little dog, Rufus, trotting along besides me.  We both enjoy walking up the track to the farm house, for me seeing the sheep with their lambs in one of the paddocks on either side, and for Rufus to sniff the many enticing aromas and the occasional chance of eating sheep’s poo!

Continue reading “Saving Grace”