Why are more pets seeing vets during COVID-19?

New figures show that there are more pets seeing vets since Australians first went into COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. But why is this happening? Are we doing things that are making our pets sick more often?

On 7 May, Petsure – which claims to be Australia’s largest underwriter of pet insurance policies – revealed that the number of claims made for vet bills was 16 per cent higher in April 2020 amid COVID-19 lockdowns than it was in the same month last year.

The amount of money that Petsure had reimbursed to pet owners was up even more. It soared by a third (34%) for the month compared with April last year, to the tune of $17.3 million.

According to Petsure’s CEO Alexandra Thomas, this has actually been a good thing.

“Pet owners have taken care of chronic health issues, attended to pet wellbeing and acted swiftly on acute issues.
Evidence of this is the increase in treatment, claims and pet insurance payments for medical and surgical procedures.
One upside of working from home may well be that pet owners are able to care for their pet in their recovery so have opted to act on health issues rather than delay them.”

Ms Thomas said, however, that there have been “no cases of reported COVID-related illnesses” in pets in Australia. She added that “there has been no increase in respiratory claims since the pandemic was declared”.

In fact, she said that claims relating to respiratory infections in dogs and cats was actually slightly lower.

Overall, Petsure said that standard vet consultations accounted for 87% of all claims received for the month, while specialist referral clinics accounted for a further 11% of claims.

Just 2% of claims were for treatment at emergency clinics.

Vets seeing pets urge greater vigilance

Despite Petsure’s suggestion that we’re paying more attention to our pets’ health, vets have urged greater vigilance. They suggest families with dogs be more careful in supervising their pet. This is both due to spending more time at home because of COVID-19, as well as the fact that the lockdown coincided with Easter.

Dr Michelle Trebeck, of Figtree Veterinary Clinic on Sydney’s North Shore, told Paws N’ All in April that her clinic had seen “an increase in general diarrhea cases”. She warned people to “be mindful of feeding things that dogs shouldn’t have”.

Additionally, Easter often leads to a spike in dogs seeking vet treatment for poisoning. That is due to certain foods that are toxic to dogs.

“Hot cross buns are a no-no, because as little as one to two raisins could kill a dog,” Dr Trebeck explained.

Fellow Sydney vet Dr Alison Moran, of Mona Vale Veterinary Hospital, said that chocolate is another problem that becomes more acute around Eastertime.

“We had one case of a dog getting into the next door’s kids’ Easter egg hunt,” she told Paws N’ All.

However, it’s not just what our dogs are eating that we should keep an eye on.

Dr Trebeck said that since the March lockdown, she had seen “an increase in dog fight wounds”. This could be the result of more people walking their dogs at particular times of day, including some who may not have been well socialised.

“So definitely walk your dog on a lead and keep your distance from people, and that includes other dogs,” she said.


Interviews with Dr Michelle Trebeck and Dr Alison Moran, between 9 and 14 April, 2020.

PetSure press release, dated 7 May, 2020. https://petsure.com.au/media-releases/petslockdown/

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