4 min read

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting West Nile Virus


By hannah hollinger

Published: 09/15/2017, edited: 09/24/2021

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A healthy dog is a happy dog and you don’t realize how happy and healthy they are until something goes wrong. One virus that has increased in prevalence is the West Nile virus. It is an infection of the brain that causes inflammation and can be fatal. Since being identified in the U.S in 1999, both dogs and humans have died as a result of the condition. Knowing what the virus is and how to prevent it taking hold of your dog could save his life.

Symptoms to look out for include tremors, paralysis, fever and rashes. If you see any of these symptoms, urgent medical assistance may be required. But the best thing you can do as an owner is to understand how to prevent the virus ever reaching your dog.

Mosquito Deterrent

The carrier of the West Nile virus is usually a mosquito. The mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected birds, which then circulates in their blood for a few days and can be passed onto dogs and humans when mosquitoes bite them. But how do you prevent your dog being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place?

Fully preventing mosquitos biting your dog is extremely difficult, but there are certain steps you can take to reduce the chances. Getting hold of insect repellants for your dog is a good start. Repellants can be bought from local shops and online. You can get both sprays and creams. It is always important to avoid the eyes, mouth and nose when applying repellent to your dog. This is an effective means to prevent the virus, but only works as long as you keep up using the repellant.

It could also be worth ensuring windows and doors are sealed properly. To do this, you can install special screens. These act as an effective barrier and will stop the mosquitos entering the house through obvious means. This is only effective to a limited extent though, as it would be virtually impossible to seal every nook and cranny into the house.

Know Your Enemy

Since the real cause and transporter of the virus is mosquitoes, knowing how they behave can help you reduce chances of your dog coming into contact with them. It is worth noting though that even in places where the virus is circulating, as little as 1% of bites could result in West Nile virus. The odds are in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce your chances further.

One way you can do this is by taking your dog out for walks or toileting when it isn’t dawn or dusk. It is also worth keeping your dog inside during early evening if you can. This is when mosquitos come out in mass and therefore the chances of your dog contracting the virus at these times are significantly higher. However, even this will only be effective in prevention to a certain extent.

The other thing you could do is put your dog in a jacket or item of clothing that protects their skin. This can only be done if he won’t overheat, but if the weather permits and his body temperature is fine in it, then this is an option worth considering. Though a garment can prevent mosquitos biting where the jacket covers the dog’s body, it will not protect uncovered parts.

Environmental Factors

The West Nile virus can kill squirrels, rabbits and other rodents. But, the virus could also still be active in the animals after death. If your dog plays around with or eats a dead infected animal, it too could contract the virus.

So to prevent this happening, keep an eye out for dead rodents and steer your dog away from them before they get to them. Or, keep your dog on a leash so you can physically prevent contact with dead animals. There is also the option of changing up your walking route. If you walk your dog in more built up areas, they are less likely to come across dead rodents. This will be effective to some extent in preventing West Nile virus, but only in the short term.

It is also worth being aware that mosquitoes gather in standing water. So if you have standing water around the house, take steps to get rid of it. Whether it is by means of filling the area in, or having a water feature removed, this will take away the mosquitoes’ home and reduce the chances of your dog coming into contact with any. Unfortunately, this too can only offer limited preventative success.

Effects of Prevention

The effects of preventing the West Nile virus are huge. Not only will it keep your dog happy and healthy, but it could actually save his life. Being aware of the short-term preventative measures outlined above could massively reduce the chances of your dog contracting the virus. It is also worth noting that it reduces the chance of you contracting the virus--the West Nile virus can kill humans too!

Take Home Points

The West Nile virus is relatively new, but it can be potentially lethal. It is primarily transmitted via mosquitos, so the main measures you can take as an owner, are to reduce contact between your dog and mosquitos. You can do this with repellant, sealing your house and keeping your dog inside at dawn and dusk. It is also worth keeping them away from potential environmental risks like dead infected animals and standing water around your house. These measures could not only prevent your dog contracting the virus, but could also help prevent you contracting it too.

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