Most people who live in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island are acutely aware of the issues surrounding mosquitoes and the deadly diseases that they can carry. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus in Massachusetts have been all over the news as cases of these diseases have been on the rise throughout the summer. While fall is currently on its way, these issues show no sign of letting up, as there are still plenty of mosquitoes biting people throughout the local region. The impact on humans has been incredibly serious this year, but what about your pets? Pet owners seeking vet care for cats and dogs frequently as about heartworm prevention for pets, which can be transmitted by mosquitoes, but should they also be concerned about other diseases?
Can WNV or EEE Viruses Affect Pets?
While we do hear a lot about the impact that these viruses have had on humans and horses, which is where the “equine” in Eastern Equine Encephalitis comes from, there isn’t much discussion about cats and dogs. According the the Massachusetts government website, WNV can be found in cats and dogs occasionally, but it is very rare. In most instances, the cats and dogs who have been infected with these viruses have been able to recover fully. EEE is even more rare in cats and dogs; however, there have been a few instances of it found in young dogs that were kept outdoors.
Cases of EEE and West Nile Virus in Massachusetts in “house pets” like cats and dogs are rare, but it has been found more frequently in other types of domesticated animals, including horses, alpacas, and llamas. According to the government website, other non-native animals are also more susceptible to Eastern Equine Encephalitis, including ostriches and emus, and game birds that include pheasants and quail. These animals become infected with these viruses in the same way that humans do, by being bitten by an infected mosquito. It is important to understand that many of the symptoms of WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are similar to other dangerous diseases, including rabies. A visit to the local animal hospital in Dartmouth can provide a complete diagnosis to rule out or confirm these concerns.
Symptoms of EEE and West Nile Virus
Contact your local veterinarian if you suspect that your pet may require vet care for cats and dogs for any reason. Symptoms related to EEE and WNV are serious and should cause vet owners to seek medical attention. Those symptoms include weakness, uncoordinated movements, loss of appetite, depression, and fever. However, they can also include circling, convulsions, irritability, blindness, head pressing, and coma – all of which are extremely serious regardless of the diagnosis. While it might not be either one of these diseases, if your pet displays any of these symptoms, be sure to get them to an emergency vet right away.
Encephalitis is the primary concern with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus in Massachusetts. But it is essential to understand that just because an animal has encephalitis, it does not mean that they also have WNV or EEE. Some of the bird species listed above that can be impacted by these diseases never develop encephalitis, but instead have other serious concerns, such as severe bleeding in the intestines or stomach, bloody diarrhea, or even, in some cases, sudden death. Contact a veterinarian who cares for these types of animals if you suspect that they may be sick to get treatment as soon as possible.
The Human Connection
Perhaps the biggest concern regarding the cases of EEE and WNV in New England has been the passage to humans. Pet owners need to know that much like heartworm prevention for pets and other types of vet care for cats and dogs, the viruses are not passed through contact with body fluids or in any other way. They are not passed from animal to animal. Infected blood or feces can be a concern, so if this is one of the symptoms that a pet is exhibiting, precautions to avoid contact should be taken. Testing must be conducted to determine if EEE or WNV is the cause of an illness, so be sure to call Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth right away if you suspect these diseases in a pet. Each animal and case is different, so it pays to have the diagnosis, advice, support, and treatment from a veterinary professional.
To prevent EEE and West Nile Virus in Massachusetts, there is a vaccine currently approved for use in horses. For other animals, your best bet is to speak with your veterinarian about prevention and treatment options. Much like heartworm prevention for pets, eliminating stagnant or standing water can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your area. Other efforts, such as getting rid of decaying organic matter, including lawn clippings, leaves, manure, and other things that can attract mosquito activity can help as well. Keep pets indoors during the peak hours, which include dawn and dusk; repair screen holes or keep your home closed up to prevent mosquitoes from getting indoors, and use mosquito repellents approved for use in animals. Again, speak with your veterinarian if you have concerns about young or senior pets, as well as pets with other medical conditions.
Questions about vet care for cats and dogs? Contact Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth by calling 508-996-3731 and speak with one of our friendly team members about your concerns. We offer a wide range of preventive treatments, emergency care, and general veterinary services. Please visit the Massachusetts government website for the latest news and details about Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus in Massachusetts and the surrounding area.