PETS should practise social distancing and be kept indoors to help minimise the spread of coronavirus, experts have warned.
Research has found that domesticated animals such as cats and hamsters can contract the virus, as can other creatures such as ferret and mink.
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Recommendations from Switzerland include keeping dogs two metres away from each other and cats should stay indoors.
The Swiss animal clinic AniCura told local media that international experts supported keeping pets away from each other to minimise risk, The Local reported.
"The (American) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise pet owners to apply social distancing rules to their pets," said Johannes Kaufman, a veterinarian from the clinic.
The CDC recommends that owners should "treat their pets like humans" until more is known about the effects of Covid-19 on animals.
Dogs are advised to keep a safe two-metre distance.
Virologist Volker Thiel said keeping a safe distance away "is just as useful" for animals to ensure they "cannot transmit the virus to humans or other pets".
The instruction hasn't gone down well with British pet owners.
One owner told the Daily Star: "If I tried to keep my cats indoors, they would attack me."
What to do if you have coronavirus and pets:
- 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 get someone else to exercise dogs, to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease – but there is no evidence that pets 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.
There is no documented evidence of humans catching coronavirus from their pets, but a number of animals have tested positive for Covid-19.
A mutant strain of mink-related coronavirus had been found in humans in Denmark.
The country announced on November 6 that it will cull its entire population of around 17million mink to stop a mutated strain of the virus which has been linked to animals.
Denmark's Staten Serum Institut – a health body designed to prevent infectious diseases – has found mink-related versions of coronavirus in at least 214 people since June, according to a report on its website.
The more infectious strain of the mutated virus – which sparked the cull – has to date only been found in 12 people and only five on mink farms.
Earlier this year, a pet cat fell ill with the bug in what was the UK's first confirmed case of the disease in an animal.
It's believed that the pet contracted the virus from its owner, but both have since made a full recovery.
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Health Director at Public Health England, said at the time that the case "shouldn't be a cause for alarm".
A four-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo contracted the bug in April, causing six other tigers and lions to fall ill.
In February, a Pomeranian dog tested positive for Covid-19 in Hong Kong.
Further testing including gene sequencing suggested it had a low level infection.
The dog was released from quarantine after repeated negative results, but died three weeks later.
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