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West Nile Virus and Pets


Amy Lieberman
Get the facts to protect your pets.
As the CDC reports a record-setting number of West Nile virus cases in humans this August, pet owners shouldn't be overly concerned that their dogs and cats could contract the virus from mosquitoes.
The virus has been confirmed in some domestic animals, including dogs and cats and especially horses, in past years, but those cases are very rare, according to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC). It is also highly unlikely that most pet owners would notice any unusual symptoms or behavior in cats or dogs that are infected with West Nile virus.
A bigger risk to pets, however, can be the insect repellant that overly cautious pet owners apply to animals' skin and the heartworm that mosquitoes can carry.
"For dogs and cats our bigger concern is the spreading of heartworm, more than concerns about West Nile," said Douglas Aspros, DVM, a veterinarian at Bond Animal Hospital in White Plains, New York. "There's no area in the country that doesn't have any heartworm."
"West Nile has not really been reported very much and is not a major concern."
Like West Nile virus, heartworm is contracted by mosquitoes, but can have very serious effects on pets and even result in death, if left untreated. Prevention is much easier than treatment, veterinarians say, and comes in various forms, including pills and injections.
West Nile virus should also be on pet owners' radars - if not for their pets' health, then for their own, as well. Through late August of this year, a total of 1,590 cases were reported in the United States, with 66 deaths, a new record since the discovery of the disease in this country.

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