A small white dog lies on a blanket with a grey cat

A team of researchers at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) has launched a study to better understand how household changes from the COVID-19 shutdowns have affected pets.

Through an online survey, the researchers hope to learn how the changes brought on by the pandemic have impacted Ontario pet owners and their animals.

Lead investigator Prof. Katie Clow, Department of Population Medicine, said some families have found more opportunities to offer their pets more attention and exercise during the pandemic. But others have experienced stress from working or learning from home or from the disruption of normal routines, which can impact pets in the house.

“We have been hearing anecdotally from veterinarians that they are seeing different conditions in pets that arrive in hospital, including many that are known stress-related conditions — particularly among cats, which may be more sensitive to change,” she said. “Additionally, we know that changes in behaviour can occur due to stress, some of which may be destructive or detrimental to an animal’s health.”

Prof. Katie Clow

Survey participants will be asked how their own lifestyles have changed, how their pets’ daily lives have been altered and what changes they’ve seen in their pets.

The research team involves OVC researchers with a range of companion animal expertise including Profs. Scott Weese, Department of Pathobiology; Shane Bateman, Department of Clinical Studies; and Lee Niel and Andria Jones-Bitton, Department of Population Medicine.

The study findings could lead to initiatives to help pet owners manage pet stress. They could also provide lessons for veterinarians for the future.

“If we can document what has happened, it might help with better preparedness for veterinarians and pet owners in the future,” said Clow, noting COVID-19 was the first province-wide state of emergency many veterinarians had ever experienced.

Interested pet owners in Ontario are asked to complete the online survey. All participants will be eligible to enter a draw to win a gift card to their favourite pet store.


Prof. Katie Clow