Dengue and chikungunya and Zika … oh my! In the last year, we have heard quite a lot about exotic diseases transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that are now transmitted locally in some parts of the United States. Zika virus is the media darling and has received the most attention. What we don’t hear a great deal about is how these potentially life-altering viruses affect our furry friends. One of the mosquito species that can infect humans with these viruses was detected in the city of Coachella in May 2016. Since then, the invasive mosquito Aedes aegypti has been detected in Indio, Cathedral City and Palm Springs.
Here’s what you need to know about your pets and the invasive Aedes mosquito viruses:
- Currently NO cases of local mosquito-transmitted dengue, chikungunya, and Zika have been reported in California.
- While cats and dogs can become infected with dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, there are NO reports of pets developing disease symptoms.
- Aedes aegypti CAN infect pets with Dirofilaria immitis, commonly known as heartworm, a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs and, to a lesser extent, in cats.
Heartworm can also be transmitted to pets by two of our native mosquito species—Aedes vexans and Culex quinquefasciatus. The latter can also infect humans with West Nile and Saint Louis encephalitis—both viruses can make people very sick, but dogs and cats rarely develop symptoms.
Here’s what you need to know to protect both you and your pets from mosquito-borne diseases:
Reduce standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs—
- Empty water-filled containers in your yard.
- Change outside pet water bowls daily and bird baths every five days.
- Report neglected pools or standing water to your local vector control agency.
Avoid walking your dog at dawn and dusk, a favorite biting time for mosquitoes.
- Wear repellent.
- Dress in long sleeve shirts and pants.
- Repair damaged screens so mosquitoes can’t get in the home.
Finally, talk to your veterinarian about heartworm prevention and mosquito repellant for your pets. Human insect repellants are not recommended for pets, because they are likely to ingest the insecticide when they self-groom. You can keep both your family and your pets safe from mosquito transmitted diseases with simple prevention!