Summer is here, which means mosquitoes are out in force. Public health officials are starting to vamp up their education efforts regarding West Nile Virus, which is transmitted by mosquito bites. People are advised to avoid being outside from dusk to dawn, cover as much of their skin as possible with clothing, and use insect repellents. But what about our pets?
Animals are susceptible to becoming infected with West Nile virus. The microorganism can cause severe neurologic disease in horses, but thankfully a preventative vaccine is available for this species. Dogs and cats can also be infected with West Nile virus, but they rarely become sick from it. Most individuals have such mild, minor, and short-lived symptoms (if they have any clinical signs associated with infection at all) that their owners are never even aware that it occurred. Dogs and cats that have been diagnosed with the West Nile virus infection do not pose a health risk to people, although they do serve as a warning that mosquitoes bearing the virus are present in the area.
To reduce the chances of pets being bitten by mosquitoes, limit outdoor activity during the dusk to dawn hours, but do not use human insect repellants. There are specific medications for pets, including K9 Advantix for dogs, available to help keep mosquitos at bay.