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Vancouver Vet Answers Your Questions About Pets and COVID-19

Dr Claire Ashburner from West King Edwards Animal Clinic tells us everything we need to know to best protect our dogs during COVID-19.

As we prepare to enter another week of social distancing, pet owners have growing concerns about how the significant change of routine is affecting their animals.

We all care about keeping our pups happy and healthy, but as they can’t tell us how they are feeling, it obviously leaves us with a lot of questions.

Is my dog stressed? Is he getting enough exercise? How is he going to cope when I go back to the office?

These are questions we are all asking ourselves, and we spoke with Vancouver vet, Dr Claire Ashburner from West King Edward Animal Clinic, to get the answers we need.

Check out our Q&A with Dr. Claire below.

Dr. Claire Ashburner with her dog
Dr. Claire Ashburner with her 7-month-old Irish Setter cross, Rua

How can I best protect my dog right now?

As the virus is being researched and studied, new information and guidelines are developing daily. That’s why it’s important to keep in contact with your veterinary team and their resources to ensure that all recommendations are up to date.

Also, practice proper hygiene, including regular handwashing, to help reduce the risk.

How can we make sure our pets are getting enough exercise when we are practising self-isolation?

Both mental and physical stimulation is extremely important for our pets, especially during a time where they may be indoors for much of the day.

Indoor games and active training are important ways to stimulate and exercise your animal’s brain.

Giving your pet alone time is also essential - whether you leave your pet in the house for a short, safe walk through the neighbourhood or, going into a different room to separate yourself to give your pet time alone in the crate.

If my pet is unwell during self-isolation, is it safe to take them to the vets?

Yes it is. Most clinics have COVID-19 protocols in place to best protect their staff and the public. Veterinary clinics are deemed an essential service and are open with modifications.

It is best to call your veterinary clinic and they will go through the process necessary to book your pet in. Many clinics, such as ours, are working with clients and triaging cases in order to decrease the risk as much as possible.

We are doing phone/email/video consults where possible, and if it is an illness or issue that we deem the animal must be seen we will get the pet in for an examination and any necessary tests.

The best option for your pet and its care will be determined through a discussion with your veterinarian.

What is the impact of such a dramatic change of routine for our pets?

The most dramatic change is that people are now at home with their pets all day. As great as this sounds for bonding, it can also lead to some anxiety/behavioural issues


Our pets are very sensitive to change, and this is a major change which leads to a disruption in our pet’s routines. This can lead to stress behaviours and ailments.

As discussed above, still giving your pet some alone time throughout the day is essential. Mental and physical stimulation is equally as important. Adding anti-anxiety remedies can be helpful as well, especially for those pets that tend to be more anxious.

Speak with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety options.

What signs should I be looking out for to recognize if my dog is stressed or unhappy?

Changes in behaviour such as whining, pacing, not settling, sleeping more, inappropriate urinating or defecating, changes in appetite and destructive type behaviours are just a few of many common abnormalities to look out for.

Some animals may increase their activities while others may become more withdrawn or lethargic.

If you are noticing any changes in behaviour that continue, we recommend giving your veterinarian a call for further assessment.

Are you still vaccinating dogs who need a booster?

Vaccinations in puppies and kittens are being done as scheduled as these are essential.

Furthermore, some vaccination boosters in adult animals are also still deemed essential depending on the immediate risk to the animal for the diseases we are vaccinating against.

If your animal is coming up to being due for any vaccination, it is best to call your veterinary clinic and to make a plan whether boosters can be rescheduled, or should be given.

How do we make sure our dogs adjust when we go back to work and are no longer at home all the time?

Keeping with a routine while at home, and again giving your pet alone time throughout the day will be important to keep up during this time at home in order for them to be able to adjust back into their old routine once you are no longer at home with them.

Inevitably, as discussed above, any large change like this may come with some increased anxiety. Mental and physical stimulation (exercise, playing, reward-motivated games etc) will be important to maintain (and even increase) in the first few weeks as well as monitoring your pet closely for any changes.

If you notice clinical signs or increase in stress like behaviours, it is very important to call your veterinarian immediately and discuss ways in which we can help to manage this anxiety for your pet.


Worried that your dog is unhappy during self-isolation? Check out our recent article on 12 Signs That Your Dog Is Genuinely Happy.


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