Warning for dog owners over disturbing face mask trend

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·3-min read

A disturbing trend among pet owners has left animal experts mortified and warning that owners could be causing unnecessary stress to their fury friends during the coronavirus pandemic.

Social media has become awash with people fixing face masks to their cats and dogs, despite the fact there is little to no evidence they can become infected with COVID-19.

In the worst case, putting a face mask on a dog could be fatal, according to Melbourne Veterinarian Dr Melissa Meehan.

“As a vet I am constantly treating dogs and cats that suffer from stress and anxiety, which impacts on their health and mental wellbeing and also causing behavioural issues,” Dr Meehan said.

This pooch Ozzy posed for a post from his owner asking everyone to "please wear a mask". Source: Instagram/ozzylebouvier
This pooch Ozzy posed for a post from his owner asking everyone to "please wear a mask". Source: Instagram/ozzylebouvier
This dog's owner used this image to tell her followers she wasn't "risking mine or anyone’s health". Source: Instagram/bronte_knowles
This dog's owner used this image to tell her followers she wasn't "risking mine or anyone’s health". Source: Instagram/bronte_knowles

“Putting a mask on a dog or cat can absolutely cause distress.”

A mask also impairs an animal’s breathing Dr Meehan said, which “can increase their stress levels and could even be fatal, especially for brachycephalic breeds who already have difficulty breathing”.

Dog behaviourist and author Lara Shannon, also from Melbourne, was particularly disappointed at Premier Daniel Andrews who shared a photo on Friday of a dog wearing a face mask.

He said the golden retriever, named Ted, was a peer support dog for Ambulance Victoria and “a great mask model too”.

This little dog's owner said they were preparing for face masks to become mandatory at shops. Source: Instagram/pip.of.the.day
This little dog's owner said they were preparing for face masks to become mandatory at shops. Source: Instagram/pip.of.the.day

Ms Shannon said she was concerned members of the public might assume their pet required a face mask if they saw these sorts of messages online, especially from reputable sources.

“What is most concerning is the fact that the Office of Premier Daniel Andrews sent out an incorrect message by using a dog in a mask on their Facebook social media,” she said.

“I understand the importance of getting the message of wearing a mask out to the community and how to do so properly, however, not at the expense of pets.

“While it may appear as a seemingly innocent photo of a dog or cat, putting a mask on a pet is not the safe thing to do.”

Putting a mask on a dog that already has breathing trouble could be dangerous. Source: Instagram/fatman_n_littleboy
Putting a mask on a dog that already has breathing trouble could be dangerous. Source: Instagram/fatman_n_littleboy

She argued that a significant number of pet owners who take photos of their animals in face masks for social media probably wouldn’t detect the stress or anxiety incurred as a result.

“I know it is just meant to be fun, but it just keeps sending the wrong message out to dog owners about responsible pet ownership and being aware of dog behaviour, signs of anxiety and more.”

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