With ZIKA on the minds of everyone, its health impact on pets has raised questions among pet owners. However, there is limited information on how Zika behaves in animals. Dr. Maureen Long, an associate professor at The University Of Florida College Of Veterinary Medicine says that
Disease caused by Zika has not been demonstrated in animals, and, in the short term, it is unlikely to become a problem in our animal population in the United States.
There was one report of research mice becoming ill with Zika. However, Long notes that this cannot be extrapolated to the real world because the mice were genetically altered to have weakened immune systems.
The CDC confirms Long’s comments on its website stating:
There have not been any reports of pets or other types of animals becoming sick with Zika virus.
Can Pets Transmit The Zika Virus To People?
Scientists do not know whether animals are or will become “reservoir” hosts of Zika. However, Dr. Long thinks that it is unlikely.
A “reservoir host” is a long term host of a disease and does not become clinically ill from carrying the disease. They simply just carry it in their bodies. An example is the Fruit Bat – it carries the ebola virus in its blood and can transmit it to humans but they do not become sick from Ebola.
Dr. Long states:
To our knowledge, the only species that develop a very high viral load of Zika in their blood are humans and non-human primates.
The CDC also makes a similar statement on its website. This means that if an animal is bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus, it is unlikely to provide an environment where the virus can thrive and survive.
Will Animals Start To Give Birth To Microcephaly Infected Offspring?
This is unlikely. There are no known cases of of Microcephaly linked to Zika in the veterinary world. However, other Flavivirus, the genus to which Zika belongs, are known to be vertically transmitted – meaning that they can spread from mother to fetus.
Should Pets Be Tested For Zika?
Dr. Rick Fredrickson, director at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the UI, said that, after speaking with other veterinary diagnostic labs in the U.S., he isn’t aware of anyone testing animals for Zika.
However, according to Fredrickson, a close eye is being kept on the evolution of the virus and, if necessary, testing will become available for animal patients. He notes that if testing does become necessary, strict bio-security measures will be necessary.
It’s important to remember that men are as high a risk as women because men have been shown to transmit the virus to their partners.
Will The Same Test Used For Humans Work On Animals?
Some experts believe that dogs and cats will not become sick if bitten by a Zika infected mosquito because the animals’ immune system are likely to mount a response to the infection. Tests of blood from animals from Africa show that the immune system does mount a response but no clinical illness have been observed.
Will Flea And Tick Medications Prevent Mosquito Bites?
Some medications will repel mosquitoes but not all of them do. K9 Advantix II is a topical that will repel mosquitoes but it is toxic to cats.
Can I Spray Deet Based Products On My Pet To Repel Mosquitos?
The ASPCA animal poison control center says:
DEET can cause significant clinical signs in companion animals. It is an N,N-dialkyamide insecticide that is found in over 500 products in varying concentrations. The higher the concentration, the more risk to the pet.