Q: Can cats or dogs get the Zika virus from a mosquito bite?
A: Probably not, though the mosquito-borne virus hasn’t been studied enough in pets to know for sure.
The Zika virus was discovered in a captive rhesus macaque monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947. The first human cases were recognized in 1952. By 2015, the virus had invaded the Western Hemisphere, striking first in Brazil.
Your question about whether pets can get Zika suggests four concerns:
1) Can the Zika virus invade pets’ bodies, thrive and reproduce?
2) Do infected pets get sick, showing clinical signs associated with the Zika virus?
3) Can the virus migrate from pet to pet, or from pet to mosquito to another pet?
4) Can humans catch the virus from their pets?
The answers to all four questions are the same: Veterinarians have no evidence that this occurs, because very little research has been done in pets.
However, mosquitos can transmit heartworms and other disease-causing organisms to cats and dogs, so it’s important to treat pets with heartworm preventives. Some pet flea and tick repellants also prevent mosquito bites.
It’s essential to control mosquitos by eliminating standing water and circulating or changing other outdoor water every day or two, especially the water in bird baths.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at AskDrLee@insurefigo.com.
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