Deb D’Andrea, Nederland. For those of us who are outside with our pets, we have recently seen an increase in the mosquito population. This is no fun for us or our pets. The types of mosquitoes who carry the West Nile virus (WNV), a virus most people are aware of, are the Culex Pipien and Culex Tarsalis species, a medium-sized mosquito that feeds around dawn and dusk, breeding in almost any standing water.
Fortunately, very few mosquitoes are actually infected with West Nile, but that is not the only disease mosquitoes carry. There is the Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), the St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) and dog heartworm, which affects dogs and other animals in Colorado.
WNV, fortunately, for most people doesn’t produce any symptoms, with 1 in 5 people developing a fever and other symptoms, and less than 1% bitten developing a serious neurological illness that is sometimes fatal. Boulder County produces a map with Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3 outlining where mosquitoes were sampled showing the relative risk in those Zones: http://www.bouldercounty.org/env/water/pages/wnvmonitoring.aspx
Dogs and cats are susceptible to WNV, but WNV occurs more frequently in horses, humans, and birds. Animals with compromised immune systems, and very young or very old dogs and cats may become ill, showing signs of infection. Symptoms include fever, muscle spasms, and weakness. A simple blood test can confirm diagnosis with a high likelihood of recovery using standard viral infection treatments.
Unlike WNV, heartworm disease occurs more frequently in dogs, cats, and ferrets; and while preventable, can be potentially fatal. All dogs and cats, indoor or outdoor, are susceptible to the risk of getting heartworm and should be tested, even if your pet just goes outside occasionally.
The yearly blood test is essential, as signs of heartworm infection may not show until the adult worms have developed in the lungs. Your dogs or cats may cough, have difficulty breathing, become lethargic, or lose their appetite; and in very rare cases, cats may die suddenly.
Unfortunately, with cats there is a series of tests required to determine if they have heartworm and there is no FDA approved treatment. With dogs, it’s a blood test and a lengthy treatment series if tests show positive. Ferrets are similar to dogs, but show signs more quickly as they are smaller. Year-round prevention and yearly testing is also recommended for your ferret.
To help protect yourself and your animals from mosquitoes, limit time outside around dawn and dusk; use non-DEET or natural repellents, and only pet-approved products on your pets as human repellents may cause pet poisoning, especially if they lick it off.
Clean out roof gutters and anywhere there is standing water like wheelbarrows, kid pools, and birdbaths. Heartworm prevention requires a visit to your Veterinary to have tests completed and the appropriate heartworm preventative prescribed. If the tests show they have heartworm, treatment can be addressed to eliminate the worms.
Till next time. Deb D’Andrea, founder of 4TheLuvOfDogz, provides mobile Canine Massage, Canine Agility and Petz Nanny Services for dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses, and other critters. 4TheLuvOfDogz home-made dog treats are sold at local stores, and K9Birthday Cakes are available direct. Contact Deb at 720-675-7078 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.