Monthly Archives: October 2011

West Nile Virus (WNV) and Your Pets

A recent case of a human fatality due to the West Nile Virus in Oyster Bay prompted several conversations in my office about dogs and cats susceptibility. Although the virus can infect dogs and cats, the risk of illness is very low. The very young, very old, and sick animals are more prone to contracting the disease because their immune systems are weak, but the risk is still considered low. WNV is very dangerous to horses and obviously humans. The virus is transmitted by blood sucking mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. Although rare in dogs and cats, documented symptoms of the disease include; depression, lack of appetite, difficulty walking, tremors, head tilt, circling and even convulsions. The virus attacks the central nervous system and causes swelling in the brain called encephalitis. Unfortunately, there is no vaccin e to protect yourself or your pets, and there is no specific treatment, only supportive therapy. The virus is not communicable from animals to humans or vice versa, it is only spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Heartworm disease is also is spread by mosquitoes. Of real concern, is the presence of stagnant water that promotes the breeding of mosquitoes, which is an important reason to eliminate stagnant water from your property Check fountains, pool covers, buckets, birdbaths, clogged gutters, kiddy pools, and low areas of your property where water can accumulate, etc. Adding a specific fish, known as Gambusia, to your artificial ponds will get rid of mosquito larva as that is their preferred food. In fact, they are so efficient at devouring the larva they have been renamed mosquitofish. Goldfish are also very efficient in consuming the larva. Besides removing stagnant water, there are ways to avoid exposure to mosquitoes in general. Namely, refrain from going outdoors very early in the morning and at dusk, especially in hot humid weather. These are the times the nasty blood suckers are outside in the largest numbers. Keep your pets away from dead birds and squirrels. Also, there are products that you can apply to the skin once a month that repel and kill fleas, ticks, AND mosquitoes. DO NOT USE products that have DEET in it as it is toxic to dogs and cats since they may lick their hair.