Yes! Dogs and cats can become infected with the West Nile Virus. But, the good news is that it is rare for dogs or cats to show clinical symptoms. Like people, pets that are old, young, ill or have compromised immune systems are more likely to become ill.
The virus is transmitted to people and animals by mosquitoes that have previously fed on infected birds. One study demonstrated that 5 to 11 percent of the dogs tested had been exposed to West Nile virus, but none of the dog’s owners noticed any symptoms or illness. Apparently dog and cats are pretty resistant to the virus.
What Are The Symptoms of West Nile Virus in Dogs and Cats?
The virus primarily affects the brain and nervous system so like in people, you will see symptoms that are neurologic in nature, including depression, decreased appetite, difficulty walking, tremors, abnormal head posture, circling and seizures. Pets that have these clinical symptoms can be tested for West Nile Virus. Rabies virus can cause these same symptoms and is a more commonly reported disease in Texas than West Nile Virus AND even more importantly is transmitted from animals to humans. We want to remind you here of the importance of rabies vaccination in dogs and cats.
Since dogs can test positive and not show any signs of illness, one might be concerned about catching the disease from a dog that is positive for West Nile Virus. Rest easy, there is no documented evidence that West Nile Virus can be transmitted from animals to people.
Presently, there is no vaccine for dogs or cats. There is also no specific treatment for the virus, other than supportive medical care and treatment to control seizures.
What Can You Do?
- Protect your pets by keeping them indoors morning and evening hours. - Eliminate standing water around your house. Do not spray or rub human mosquito repellent on your pet. There can be potential side effects, especially with products that contain DEET. - Only use mosquito repellent approved for pets - Keep your pet indoors while pesticides are sprayed in your area