PET owners have been urged not to put face masks on their cats and dogs to protect them from coronavirus as it could kill them.
Vets issued a warning after pictures of animals who have had masks put on them by their owners have emerged on social media sites such as Instagram.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Animals experts have issued the warning as some owners fear their beloved pets will contract coronavirus.
It comes as a pet cat also tested positive for coronavirus along with its owners, the first case of its kind in the UK.
Dr Melissa Meehan, a vet based in Melbourne, Australia, said forcing animals to wear masks can cause stress and anxiety for them, reports Yahoo News.
Cats and dogs could even die in a worst case scenario has they become stricken with distress.
Dr Meehan said: “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.
“Putting a mask on a dog or cat can absolutely cause distress.”
She added masks impair animal’s breathing which ” “can increase their stress levels and could even be fatal, especially for brachycephalic breeds who already have difficulty breathing”.
Face mask usage is become widespread worldwide as experts say it is the best way for humans to prevent themselves contracting the virus.
Britain has rolled out laws which make it mandatory to wear masks in shops and on public transport.
Daniel Andrews, the premier for the Australian state of Victoria, which is facing a second wave, was slammed for sharing a picture of a dog in a mask.
Dog behaviourist and author Lara Shannon said it sends the “wrong message” – even if it was meant to be a “fun photo”.
She said: “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.
“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.”
Ms Shannon stressed that putting a face mask on a pet is “not the safe thing to do”.
Even during the early days of the outbreak, people in China were seen buying face masks for their dogs.
Several dogs and a cat have tested positive for Covid-19 following close contact with infected humans, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).
WOAH experts however said that more studies are being carried out to gauge “the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species”.
The organisation stressed, however, that, “currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19.
It said: “Human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person contact. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals have spread the disease.