Face masks frighten four-legged friends

By Jamie Salter

A COVID-19 change to routine could be contributing to the stress and anxiety of our pets.

Face masks are a foreign concept to dogs, who are now seeing their owners in an entirely new way.

Greencross Vets chief executive officer Magdoline Awad unmasked the top tips to familiarise pets with people wearing face coverings.

“Our furry companions will be unfamiliar with seeing us wearing masks, so helping them adjust is important in order to minimise any distress,” she said.

Dr Awad said pet owners should always remain calm when wearing a mask to avoid alarming their dogs and to reward their pets’ calm behaviour.

She also said to remember that pets do not need to go everywhere with their owners but that they should be taken on regular walks, as routine reduces anxiety in dogs.

GV Vets veterinarian Frances Jenner said mask wearing did not seem to be a major contributing factor towards pet anxiety, as people do not usually wear their masks at home.

“It's not something the staff at our clinic or the local behaviourist has been specifically asked about from pet owners,” she said.

“In the vet clinic, we do notice some dogs do a double take, but that could be the masks or because they're out of their comfort zone.”

Dr Jenner reminded owners that masks were not designed for pets to wear.

“I see lots of cute little Facebook or Instagram photos where the pets have posed with masks on, but animals and pets are obviously not required to wear them and shouldn’t,” she said.

She said throughout the pandemic, owners needed to continue caring for pets the way they always have been and also be aware they are allowed to come to the vet for medical attention when required.