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Covid and Its Impact on UK Pets


by Lauren Samet
22/07/2021


Covid has had a big impact globally and here in the UK it’s impact on social and economic factors has led to approximately half of UK adults reporting that their level of well-being has been affected, with 4 in 5 adults in Great Britain saying they were very worried about the effect that the coronavirus is having on their life right now (Office of National Statistics, 2020). These figures indicate the toll the pandemic has taken on our happiness and stress levels, but how has it impacted our pets?

During the last 16 months many researchers have been busy investigating exactly this. Kindly participating with numerous surveys over the pandemic period, many pet owners have been describing the highs and lows of lockdown life with their pets.

 

 

Pets in the Home

Lockdown meant home schooling, working from home, and limitations on daily outdoor access, which led to humans and pets alike spending more time at home.

Out and About 

Exercise and travel restrictions aimed to reduce virus spread led to changes in walking routines for dogs. With uncertainty about virus transmission between species, many cats were kept indoors or restricted in outdoor access.

Pets’ Behaviours

For many animals, periods of intense change can impact their stress levels and behaviour. Some animals enjoyed having the increased company that lockdown brought but owners worried their pets may struggle to return to normal.

A note on stress and problem behaviours in pets… If you think your cat or dog is struggling to adapt to the “the new normal” or are worried they might do once things return to normal, there are lots of ways to seek help.  Many animal welfare charities offer excellent free online behavioural advice with the best up-to-date methods (Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, Woodgreen the Animals’ Charity, Blue Cross, the RSPCA are just a few examples). Speaking to a vet, a recognised veterinary behaviour specialist or trusted pet behaviourists are also options. Many issues with animals' behaviours take time and consistency to build and create new habits or routines to allow the animal to learn. Patience and positive reinforcement are the best methods to encourage this learning. Do not overlook the impact of quality rest, exercise, and a balanced diet to support your pets’ health during this time. Vitapaws offer the supplement Pet Calm for Dogs to assist in providing some additional dietary support to your dog during these times.

Veterinary Care & Husbandry Concerns

The veterinary field, like many other professions, was significantly impacted by the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020. Practices were disrupted, and veterinary hospitals had to adapt for routines to continue safely. Concerns about limited access to veterinary care and other pet related resources were a concern for many pet owners during the pandemic period. 

Human-Animal Bonds & Support

It’s no secret that for many people their pets have been a life-line during this time, providing companionship, reasons to smile, and love through the difficult period.

Pet Sales, Theft, and Importing 

With the nation spending more time at home, many people chose this time to get a pet, whether for the first time or to add to their current animal family. The Blue Cross (2020) reported that the breeding and selling of pets in the UK has become a concern since supply of puppies and kittens does not meet demand. Puppy prices have increased during the pandemic, and remain high, alongside the rise in pet theft! Lockdown restrictions have made it harder for people to find trusted sellers and to be sure that they are not supporting the illegal import of puppies, which often involves cruelty, poor welfare and suffering of many puppies and their parents. 

Looking Towards the Future

The research seems to reflect the fact that although pets have brought us so much extra comfort, joy and company during this difficult time, the additional responsibility of owning a pet, and the impact on pets themselves, have often caused owners. For pets, the same contradictory findings may also be true - while many have enjoyed the extra company and attention that the lockdown restrictions have brought, many have faced an increase in stress or anxiety caused by the changes in routines.  Some have more stress yet to face in the future as we start to return to old routines.    


References 
Bowen, J., Bulbena, A., & Fatjó, J. (2021). The Value of Companion Dogs as a Source of Social Support for Their Owners: Findings From a Pre-pandemic Representative Sample and a Convenience Sample Obtained During the COVID-19 Lockdown in Spain. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 440.
Bussolari, C., Currin-McCulloch, J., Packman, W., Kogan, L., & Erdman, P. (2021). “I Couldn’t Have Asked for a Better Quarantine Partner!”: Experiences with Companion Dogs during Covid-19. Animals, 11(2), 330.
Christley, R. M., Murray, J. K., Anderson, K. L., Buckland, E. L., Casey, R. A., Harvey, N. D., ... & Upjohn, M. M. (2021). Impact of the First COVID-19 Lockdown on Management of Pet Dogs in the UK. Animals, 11(1), 5.
Dogs Trust (2020). The impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on dogs & dog owners in the UK [online]. Available at: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/research/research-papers/201020_covid%20report_v8.pdf (accessed 01.07.2021)
Holland, K. E., Owczarczak-Garstecka, S. C., Anderson, K. L., Casey, R. A., Christley, R. M., Harris, L., ... & Upjohn, M. M. (2021). “More attention than usual”: A thematic analysis of dog ownership experiences in the UK during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Animals, 11(1), 240.
Kogan, L. R., Erdman, P., Bussolari, C., Currin-McCulloch, J., & Packman, W. (2021a). The initial months of COVID-19: Dog owners' veterinary-related concerns. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 8, 45.
Kogan, L. R., Erdman, P., Currin-McCulloch, J., Bussolari, C., & Packman, W. (2021b). The Impact of COVID on Cat Guardians: Veterinary Issues. Animals, 11(3), 603.
Mueller, M. K., Richer, A. M., Callina, K. S., & Charmaraman, L. (2021). Companion Animal Relationships and Adolescent Loneliness during COVID-19. Animals, 11(3), 885.
Nieforth, L. O., & O'Haire, M. E. (2020). The role of pets in managing uncertainty from COVID-19. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S245–S246. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000678
Owczarczak-Garstecka, S. C., Graham, T. M., Archer, D. C., & Westgarth, C. (2021). Dog Walking before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown: Experiences of UK Dog Owners. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(12), 6315.
Ratschen E, Shoesmith E, Shahab L, Silva K, Kale D, Toner P, et al. (2020) Human-animal relationships and interactions during the Covid-19 lockdown phase in the UK: Investigating links with mental health and loneliness. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0239397. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239397
Shoesmith, E., Santos de Assis, L., Shahab, L., Ratschen, E., Toner, P., Kale, D., ... & Mills, D. S. (2021). The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour: A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner Mental Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), 6171.


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