We’ve all seen recent news reports about the spread of the West Nile Virus. The Center for Disease Control reports that as of August 28, there have been 1590 cases reported – the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. If you are like me, you may be wondering if the West Nile Virus can cause illness in your beloved pet.
The bad news is that the West Nile Virus CAN infect your animal. The good news is that it is rare in healthy pets, and studies show that many times if your pet has it, they will not show any symptoms and will often get over the virus without the owner ever knowing.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you are concerned that your pet may have the virus (some of the symptoms are lethargy and loss off appetite) you should get them to their veterinarian for testing.
There are other nasty diseases carried by mosquitoes that are even more of a threat to your pet. According to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), there are millions of dogs in the United States that have been infected with heartworm disease – a potentially fatal infection transmitted by the mosquito. Heartworm disease can easily be prevented by eliminating mosquitoes around your house and using heartworm medications that have been approved or administered by your vet.
Personally, I don’t like putting unnecessary chemicals on myself, my kids or my pets, so I look for more natural options. If you research, there are many natural products available with different active ingredients. I did some research and according to Dogs Naturally Magazine, the most effective natural mosquito repellent for people is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, which you can find online or at Target or Walmart. It has been backed by studies from the New England Journal of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture and Consumer Reports. Be warned – it does not smell great, but it works better than anything I have ever used.
Do NOT use “people” insect repellent on your pets! Most contain DEET and other chemicals that are toxic when ingested at high doses, and dogs and cats may lick it off and swallow it, potentially resulting in poisoning. If your pet has ingested DEET, they may exhibit the following symptoms:
• wobbly gait
• loss of appetite
If your animal has ingested DEET, please contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic for advice.
For animals, I found a pet-safe lemon, lavender and eucalyptus product that can be purchased from Daisy Paw. They also make cool collars specially made to hold the essential oils, keeping your pet protected longer without having to spray the product directly on his skin. There are also other insecticides that are available by prescription from your vet, like Advantix, Frontline, etc.