A woman in a face mask and her dog lounge in the park.

Our COVID-19 Guide to Pet Care: May 2020

In these uncertain times, it can be tough to determine what is safe and what qualifies as an essential business when it comes to pet care. As a result, pet parents have been taking matters into their own hands. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the woman putting peanut butter on her head to clip her dog’s toenails, or heard stories about funny pet grooming fails.

For those who aren’t as creative or have animals at home in need of in-person medical attention, adapting to an ever-changing set of rules can lead to frustration and confusion. What are the new pet care rules during the COVID-19 outbreak? What is off-limits, and what can be done to help pet parents take care of their furry friends during the quarantine?

Here’s a look at how various pet services are operating around the country right now, along with an informative list of options for pet care. These will help alleviate any confusion about available services and assist in acquiring care for your pet while practicing social distancing.

Veterinary Medicine

Much like medical care for humans, veterinary medicine is considered to be an essential service during the pandemic. How your veterinarian chooses to continue their operation, however, will depend on personal preference and state mandates.

“My vet is doing drive up appointments only,” says Rachel Goldberg, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, and pet parent to her pit bull mix, Betty. “We have an appointment this weekend because Betty might have Valley Fever. They’ll do a blood draw and if an exam is needed, they will take her from the back seat of my car using their own leash, so that they don’t have to touch mine.”

On the other hand, Patricia Casey, who lives near Cherry Hill, New Jersey, took her Labradoodle, Colbie, for a routine check up last week, and her dog was brought into the animal hospital for the appointment.

“A vet tech came out to my car and asked me if there were any concerns they should be aware of for the appointment,” Casey says. “Then, she took Colbie inside and I sat in my car, waiting for her. After about 10 minutes, the vet called my cell phone and we talked about Colbie, just as we would have if I were inside with her. He answered my questions and explained how they were treating her. Once she was done, they brought her back out to my car and we went on with our day.”

It can be nerve-racking to go to any public space that trafficks more than 10 people during a given day, which is why many people are avoiding the vet’s office, if they can help it.

Here are a couple of items to consider when acquiring veterinary care during this crisis:


Although dog grooming was deemed non-essential at the beginning of the outbreak, many U.S. states are starting to allow grooming businesses to reopen. As a result, pet groomers in certain states are finding new ways to limit their contact with pet parents during the process.

“We’re taking Daisy back to the groomer this weekend,” says Joe Boroweic, New Jersey-based parent to Daisy, a Goldendoodle. “They told us that they’ll come get her from the car when we arrive, and will use their own leash to walk her back and forth from her appointment.”

Of course, like many humans, there are plenty of pups across the country who are forced to forgo their regular haircuts as a result of the coronavirus. Keri Kennedy, a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been forced to get creative with keeping her mixed breed, Atticus, clean, as grooming services are still not considered to be essential in Pennsylvania.

“Since our groomer is not open, we’ve had to bathe our elderly dog outside. Our old Philly pipes can’t handle the amount of fur that would result from indoor baths, it would definitely clog our drains,” says Kennedy.

Some pet parents that we spoke to have gone further than outdoor baths, and have given their pups haircuts and clipped their nails, even though most report that their dogs look “ridiculous” as a result. Regardless, these pet owners feel satisfied with their work knowing that their dog is more comfortable.

If you’re interested in trying to groom your own pet, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Outdoor Exercise

Many dog walkers have been forced to shut down their businesses as a result of COVID-19, as the majority of their clients are not leaving the house for work or travel.

“Pet care has been considered an essential service in Connecticut since the Governor’s order to shut down anything non-essential in March,” says Jessica Barry, owner of RCO Pet Care. “As of March 22nd, I chose to close the business temporarily due to the ever-changing information and unknowns surrounding the virus in order to protect my team and our clients.”

Although Barry is planning on carefully reopening her business at the end of May, many other dog walking companies around the country remain closed. However, that doesn’t mean they are not trying to provide value to their customer base. Rich Miller, owner of Walk It Like A Dog in Philadelphia, who has chosen to close down his business during the shutdown, has been sending his customers tips about how to safely walk their dogs during the pandemic.

“I’ve told them to limit their dog to a 4-foot leash in order to try to keep them close while outside,” says Miller. “Dog owners who go out for walks should continuously scan their path and, when they see someone coming, try to cross over to the other side of the street. Avoid parks and areas known to have high volumes of people.”

Miller also acknowledges that, though it would usually be normal to have passersby stop to pet your dog or chat on your walk, you should use body language to show people that you’re not interested in having them interact with your dog right now. It might seem harsh, but it’s the best way to follow social distancing guidelines.

Even with twice-daily walks, you might notice that your pet is getting as stir-crazy as you are right now. To help them stay active and expend any extra energy, you can try the following indoor activities: