Pets can be infected with West Nile Virus, too

Humans aren’t the only ones susceptible to West Nile Virus (WNV) — our pets can become infected, too. There’s no vaccine for WNV in pets, but the good news is that infections in dogs and cats are rare and usually not fatal. Also, pets can’t transmit WNV to humans. The only way WNV can be transmitted to humans and pets is through a bite from an infected mosquito.

Most pets won’t display any symptoms of WNV infection, the CDC says, and “treatment would be supportive (managing symptoms, if present) and consistent with standard veterinary practices for animals infected with a viral agent.”

However, the CDC says it’s still important to take precautions to protect your pets. But don’t get out the mosquito spray that you use on yourself when going outdoors. “DEET-based repellents, which are recommended for humans, are not approved for veterinary use (largely because animals tend to ingest them by licking),” the CDC says (emphasis is theirs). A veterinarian can offer advice on products to use.

The easiest way to protect both yourself and your pets is by staying indoors at times when mosquitoes are more likely to be active, at dawn and dusk. Making sure there’s no standing water outside is also a good precautionary measure, as mosquitoes lay eggs in water. Keeping your pets away from dead birds can also prevent infection, as WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes after they’ve come in contact with birds infected with WNV.

With these common-sense measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Like their pets, most people who become infected with WNV have no symptoms. But if you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and have any of these symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor.

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