3 Mosquito-Borne Illnesses That Affect Pets & How to Prevent Them
When most people think of mosquitoes, they imagine the itchy bumps left on their skin and the diseases they carry that can affect humans. Have you thought about whether mosquitoes can affect your pet? Can your dog get West Nile virus?
There are a few illnesses mosquitoes can carry that you should know about if you’re a dog or cat owner. Then you can help protect and care for your pet when you’re out and about during mosquito season!
1. West Nile Virus
One question we hear is: Can my dog or cat get West Nile virus?
While your pet can catch this disease from mosquitoes, it isn’t one owners generally need to worry about. A study conducted on pets and West Nile found that both dogs and cats are very resistant to the disease. Dogs that were infected had such low measurable quantities of the virus that it would be very unlikely they would transmit it to another mosquito if they were bitten again.
Very few pets die from West Nile virus infection. In a study from 1999, 5% to 11% of dogs had the virus, but none of their owners reported signs of their pets being sick.
When symptoms do (rarely) occur, they can include:
- Muscle weakness
- Neurological problems
If your pet is displaying these symptoms, your veterinarian will check for more likely causes first, as they’re rarely caused by West Nile virus.
Heartworm is one disease that all pet owners should be proactive about. It’s the most common disease transferred by mosquitoes to cats and dogs and can prove painful to your pet and expensive for you if you haven’t taken precautionary measures.
Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs
Symptoms of heartworm in dogs often don’t show up until seven months after an infected mosquito infects your animal. Once mature, the heartworms will begin to reproduce in your dog’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. If not treated, heartworm can be fatal.
- Lack of energy
- Reluctance to exercise
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Abnormal lung sounds
The best way to prevent heartworm disease in dogs is to use heartworm medication regularly. Your vet can prescribe it to you.
Heartworm Symptoms in Cats
For most cats, heartworm does not reach the adult stage, but even immature worms can cause issues, such as heartworm-associated respiratory disease.
Prevention is a must, as tests may not discover the immature worms, and in cases of infection, many cat owners don’t realize until it is too late.
There is no heartworm medication for cats. If your cat displays these symptoms, take him to the veterinarian immediately:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fluid in abdomen
- Coordination issues
3. Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Dog and cat owners generally don’t need to worry about eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), as they’re usually resistant to health effects. EEE most often affects horses. If your pet does display symptoms, he will most likely make a full recovery. In the worst-case scenario, he’ll need supportive treatment.
You should contact your vet if you notice these symptoms in your dog or cat:
- Neurological issues
How Do You Know If Your Pet Has Been Bitten by a Mosquito?
Dogs and cats often display the same signs as humans when they’re bitten by mosquitoes! Constant scratching and irritation are most common, along with the red welts people are used to. They may also rub their ears or noses to find relief.
How to Prevent Mosquito Bites
You can help prevent the spread of West Nile virus, heartworm, and EEE to your dog or cat by doing a few simple things:
- Use dog- and cat-friendly insect repellent – Never use insect repellent designed for humans on your pets; it can be toxic. If you do, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Get rid of standing water in your yard, such as bird baths, untreated pools, and collected rain water.
- Don’t walk your dog during peak mosquito times: dawn and dusk.
- Use window screens, and replace or repair any tears.
- Administer preventative heartworm medication – It’s an inexpensive, monthly treatment. Always give your dog his heartworm medication on time and correctly. Missing a dose or administering it late can leave your pet open to infection.
- Have your dog tested for heartworm – This can be done annually by your vet to ensure your dog is not infected. While heartworm medicine is highly effective, it’s not 100%.
While you don’t have to worry too much about your dog or cat contracting West Nile virus or EEE from mosquitoes, preventative measures should still be taken to reduce the chances of contracting more severe illnesses, like heartworm. Medication and steps to remove mosquito habitats from your property go a long way in pet care, but if yours displays symptoms of West Nile virus, EEE, or heartworms, get him to a veterinarian quickly. Early detection is key to ensuring your pet stays in good health.
Whether your dog or cat is showing symptoms of one of these three infections, you would like to start your pet on preventative measures, or you need prescription refills, visit Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital in Katy, Texas. To book an appointment or bring your pet in for an emergency, give us a call at 281-693-7387.