Can Dogs Get the Zika Virus?

Posted by Dawn Donaldson


 Although the Zika virus was first isolated in 1947, Google Trends shows that there were virtually no online searches about this topic over the last decade. Then in February of this year, searches for Zika online absolutely exploded when the virus began making headlines. Because it wasn’t something that anyone previously had much knowledge of, most people still have a lot of questions about it.

One of those questions is if dogs can get the Zika virus. The current answer to that question is we don’t know. As of now, there’s no evidence that dogs can contract or transmit the virus. Zika has been detected in non-human primates in Brazil, and has also been purposely given to genetically modified mice to better understand this infection.

Why is Zika So Concerning?

In addition to providing the most recent information about Zika and dogs, another common source of confusion is why Zika is suddenly so concerning. There are two main answers to that question. The first is how rapidly it can spread. Estimates currently point at 1.5 million people in Brazil being infected by the virus.

The second reason there’s so much concern about Zika is the effect it can have on women who are pregnant or get pregnant after being infected. The virus can cause a serious and life-threatening birth defect known as microcephaly. The physical manifestation of this defect is an underdeveloped fetal brain, which can result in severe neurological deformation or death. Over 3,500 cases of microcephaly were reported in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016.

Protecting Your Dog From Mosquitoes

As of now, Zika isn’t something that needs to concern dog owners in the United States. However, mosquitoes can still be very dangerous to dogs. The reason is they’re the way that heartworms are spread. In fact, mosquitoes are the only way a dog can get this disease. And unlike Zika, this disease has been reported in all 50 states. Ohio specifically has a moderate to high occurrence of heartworm throughout the state.

If a dog gets infected with heartworm, it can be difficult and costly to cure. What’s even scarier is there initially won’t be any symptoms that a dog has heartworm. Over time, a cough will begin due to worms crowding the lungs and heart. Curing heartworm requires multiple injections of an arsenic-based product.

There are a lot of scary elements of heartworm. Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent a dog from getting it. All you need to do is use a monthly pill, monthly topical or a six-month injectable product. We recommend that you speak to your vet about the best prevention option for your specific dog. - Dog Day Every Day

At Dog Day, Every Day, taking great care of dogs is something that’s always on our minds. Since providing great dog care is our speciality, we like sharing our knowledge and experience with dog owners whenever possible. Now that the temperature is on the rise, we thought it would be the perfect time to bring up a “pesky” topic and how you can stay on top of this issue.

What Dog Owners Need to Know About Fleas

The first six weeks of warmer weather are when fleas often explode in numbers. How do you know if your dog has fleas? Black specks are the most common sign. These specks aren’t the fleas themselves. Instead, they’re the fecal matter that adult fleas leave behind. In addition to looking for these specks in the areas where your dog lays, you can run a comb through your dog’s hair to see if any specks fall out.

If your dog doesn’t have fleas, the main thing for you to do is take preventive action now to keep fleas from becoming a problem in the coming weeks. Depending on your dog’s age, lifestyle and your own schedule, there are a variety of solutions you can compare to keep your dog flea-free.

What if you discover that your dog does have fleas? The first thing is don’t panic! Although fleas definitely aren’t ideal, they’re also not the end of the world. By taking action now, you can eliminate the problem and then prevent it from happening again.

In order to fully get rid of fleas, there are four different steps you need to complete. The first three are kill adult fleas on your dog, kill adult fleas that are planning to get on your dog and then prevent flea eggs from hatching inside your home. You can accomplish all three steps by using an active treatment recommended by your vet.

The last step is to fully clear your home and any other area your dog spends time in of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. You can do that by frequently vacuuming throughout your home, regularly washing the places where your dog sleeps and keeping your yard as tidy as possible.

Don’t Forget About Mosquitoes

In addition to fleas, the warmer weather means mosquitoes are getting active again. Not only should you protect yourself against these pests, but it’s important to do the same for your dog. The reason that mosquitoes are especially concerning for dogs is they can carry heartworm. Since heartworm is almost always serious and even has the potential to be fatal, we highly recommend you start your dog on a heartworm preventative. If you haven’t ever used this kind of medication before, don’t hesitate to ask your vet any questions about which option is the best fit for your dog.

Using heartworm, flea and tick preventatives is one of the best things you can do to keep your dog healthy. Regardless of your dog's lifestyle, using these preventatives will protect their well-being. And although preventatives aren't free, the combination of all three can cost less than fifty cents a day. When you think about the level of protection that preventatives can provide for such a low cost, it's easy to see why this trio is such a wise investment in your dog's health.

Why Monthly Prevention is So Important

If you want to keep your dog as healthy as possible, it's important to use preventatives on a monthly basis. Whether it's the first of the month or another day, the best thing to do is pick a day that works for you and then set a reminder every month.

By establishing a consistent schedule for when you give your dog heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, you can ensure that they're always protected. While most dog owners understand the importance of using preventatives on a consistent basis, one question that often comes up is if it's necessary to continue using these medications during the winter months.

The reason that dog owners often have this question is because they've probably heard that mosquitoes, fleas and ticks aren't active during the cold months of winter. Even though this is something that gets repeated quite often, it's not an accurate statement.

Do Mosquitoes, Fleas and Ticks Survive the Winter?

Once the temperature drops and winter sets in, bugs like mosquitoes are no longer as noticeable. But just because these pests aren't as prevalent during the winter months doesn't mean they've suddenly disappeared.

In the case of mosquitoes, males do die after mating in the fall. However, females live through the cold months of winter. Since they actually seek shelter from the cold, it's possible for them to end up indoors.

With fleas, adults have a hard time surviving the cold of winter. On the other hand, flea pupae have no trouble dealing with really cold temperatures. And if flea pupae cause an infestation, fully eliminating them takes a lot of work.

Not only are there over 850 different species of ticks, but many adult ticks are most active in both fall and spring. Given that those two seasons can blend into winter, not administering preventatives every single month can put your dog at risk of being exposed to ticks when they're starting or ending a peak cycle of activity.

As you can see from the behaviors of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, a lack of visibility doesn't mean that they're not around. Because dogs can still be afflicted by these pests during the winter, the best way to protect your dog and have peace of mind for yourself is to continue administering preventatives on a monthly basis throughout the winter months.