In torrid times, like those we are experiencing now, our pets are an important source of comfort and companionship. Numerous global studies have shown the impact pets have on the emotional and physiological wellbeing of their owners. Let’s focus on those, and on what we can do to maximise this special bond.

COVID-19 has the world in a frenzy, and with good reason, but there is currently no evidence to suggest that companion animals can be a source of infection to people. In fact, now more than ever, as we face extended periods of self-isolation our pets will become important sources of support and wellbeing.

Several large scientific studies conclude that dog owners, for example, are healthier than people who do not have a dog in the house. Dog owners are at lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, probably because they exercise more. When you have a dog you have to walk it, even in bad weather. Pets also have a significant impact on blood pressure and stress levels because when we’re with them, we’re focussing on their needs which helps us forget our own anxieties.

What to do during self-isolation

So you can’t go to the gym or yoga class or your favourite coffee shop to meet a friend, but you can interact with your dog or cat. Here are some fun ways to take the loneliness and boredom out of self-isolation:

  1. Take your dog for a walk. It’s not only good for you to get fresh air but walking is meditative, too, so it calms a fearful mind. And the walk is good for both your and your dog’s cardiovascular health. Avoid crowded doggy parks and choose paths that allow plenty of air and space between walkers.
  2. Play with your cat. Too few people appreciate how much cats enjoy interactive play, believing that felines prefer to sleep all day. That’s true for more than half of an average 24-hour period, but when they are awake cats need the same stimulation and attention as dogs. Think of this as an exercise in mindfulness: the more focussed you are on the game, the less likely you are to brood about COVID-19. EberVet Vetshops have a variety of toys – from feathered wands to catnip-stuffed balls – that keep cats amused for hours.
  3. Caring for others helps take the focus off our own wants and needs. Pets need food, bedding, parasite control, clean water and love. If you are self-isolating take this opportunity to wash your pet’s bed and bedding, check collars and leads (do they need replacing?), replace broken toys, cracked food bowls and litter trays, and apply parasite control. If you call ahead, your EberVet Vetshop can have your order ready for you so there is minimum contact time in-store. All our stores are sanitised with F10 veterinary disinfectant, a powerful virus killer that destroys all coronaviruses.
  4. Draw up a pet emergency list. We never seem to have the time to do this; now’s the ideal opportunity. If you have to be taken to hospital or into quarantine, who will take care of your pet? Will they know what to do? Does your pet require chronic medication, and in what dosages? Who is your vet? Drawing up a document with all of these details will make life a lot simpler for the person who has temporary custody of your pet, and you’ll have peace of mind.
  5. Hug and kiss your dog or cat. Unless you are sick, there is nothing to prevent you giving your pet big comforting hugs and kisses. Ahhh, now that feels good – Veterinarian Dr Hilldidge Beer is CEO of the EberVet Petcare Group and of EberVet Vetshops

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