According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is so far no evidence that pets can spread or become sick with Zika virus.
With that said, there still needs to be more research to understand how Zika virus may affect pet animals.
Zika virus spreads from human to human primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. So, to be safe, what you can do for your pet and yourself, same as it has always been, is to keep mosquitoes away.
“We should actively prevent our pets from getting bitten by mosquitoes. That’s because [even if Zika virus doesn’t impact pets] there are other diseases, such as heartworm disease that mosquitos can spread to pets,” advises Dr. Eugene Lin (BVSc), Founder of The Animal Ark Veterinary Group.
Dr. Brian Loon (BVMS), Principal Veterinary Surgeon at Amber Vet echoes Dr. Lin’s advice: “General preventive measures we take around the home to minimise mosquito breeding and exposure are the best ways to minimise Zika transmission to humans and potentially animals.”
“Moreover, mosquitoes also transmit heartworm disease in dogs, which can be life-threatening. All dogs should be up to date with their regular heartworm preventative, with a heartworm blood test done prior if they have not been on heartworm prevention before or possibly when prevention has lapsed (please seek veterinary advice),” he continues.
Mosquito prevention tips
- Eliminate all potential mosquito breeding sites around you
- Apply pet-safe insect repellents on pets when out or if you live in a high-risk neighbourhood
- Diffuse mosquito repelling essential oils like lemon eucalyptus
- Use insect screens at open windows
- Turn on the air conditioner
Zika virus origin
Zika virus was first discovered in a monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda in the 1940s. To date, the only symptom of the virus, if any, in nonhuman primates is a mild, transient fever.
A very limited study from the late 1970s showed that cows, horses, goats, water buffaloes, ducks and bats may be susceptible to the virus as well. However, they did not develop the disease or pose a risk for viral transmission to humans.