Can Zika infect my pet?
Recent coverage of the Zika virus and its effects on people and unborn babies has raised concerns among pet owners. The Zika virus was first identified in Africa in the 1940’s in a monkey. It is spread to people primarily through Aedes mosquito bites, and usually causes no or only mild symptoms in people. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye.) The symptoms generally last several days to a week. Since the symptoms are mild people don’t seek medical treatment and are unaware that they have the virus. However, infection with Zika virus in pregnant women has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
We know very little about the possible effects of Zika in pets or livestock.
The virus causes only relatively mild illness in a fraction of people bitten by an infected mosquito, and it seems likely that a similar outcome would be seen in animals. Nonhuman primates like monkeys and apes, have shown the ability to be infected. A report from the 70’s says that horses, cows, carabaos, goats, ducks, and bats could be infected; with no evidence of symptoms or that they pose a risk in transmission. This does not necessarily mean that it does not affect pets, however. It simply means that we don’t know. llnesses associated with Zika virus have not been seen in dogs and cats, nor do pets appear to be carriers, and the virus is not expected to cause problems in the US pet population.
Pet owners who worry about mosquitoes should never spray their pets with DEET-containing repellents, nor should they feed their pets garlic tablets, both of which can have serious health consequences for pets. At this point, mosquito control measures and the use of repellants labeled for animals are the best preventative measures available. For dogs Advantix II and Vectra 3-D spot-ons are topical flea – tick and mosquito repellents which last up to 1 month. Natural alternatives are still dangerous because they contain oils which are dangerous when ingested. I found 1 source which lists Picaridin as safe in but most refer to the epa info which states no data is available. Skin so soft from Avon appears to drown the mosquito and leave the very greasy. Revolution kills heartworms but not mosquitos. My best recommendation is to keep your cat indoors, but for those outdoor cats the studies show Sawyers 20% picaridin is the most effective and safest choice for repelling the Aedes mosquito.
Interestingly, a virus that is related to Zika (Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, or BVDV) is known to cause birth defects in calves, including microcephaly and eye deformities, when their mothers are infected during pregnancy.