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Pets and Wearing Face Masks during COVID-19

Pets have a natural ability to understand and respond to human expression and it plays a significant role in building a positive relationship and trust between pet and owner. 

With face masks now being mandatory in Victoria and encouraged to be worn in other parts of the country, for pets, seeing their owners wear face masks may cause them to feel scared or anxious, particularly for those that are naturally timid or shy. 

To help your pet feel safe and at ease, gradually introducing a face mask in a familiar space such as your home will help them feel comfortable when leaving the house for their daily walk when the full mask is required. To do this, wear the mask partly on your face when you interact with your pet and as they become familiar with the mask, gradually cover more of your face. 

If your pet continues to demonstrate symptoms of anxiety, including shaking, licking of the lips or pacing, remove the mask and try again the next day. The key is to keep these sessions short and sweet to prevent your pet from becoming irritated, tired, or anxious. 
It’s important to make positive associations with face masks, so rewarding your pet with treats while you’re wearing the mask will help keep them relaxed. 

Using food as a reward is a powerful tool for shaping positive social behaviours, building trust, and providing reassurance. 

When you leave your home wearing your mask, take some treats with you to further encourage your dog to respond positively to others wearing masks in public.

There is limited evidence that pets and companion animals can get infected with COVID-19 and no evidence they can pass it to humans

Therefore, there is no need to place a face mask on your pet and doing so may cause them significant distress and in some cases cause life threatening breathing difficulties. 

As a precaution, practice good hand hygiene and minimise contact with your pet if sick.

Statement attributed to PETstock VET Dr Sasha Nefedova.

MEDIA RELEASE, 29th July 2020

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