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West Nile Virus (WNV)
West Nile is a type of virus that causes encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. The virus has been found in Africa, western Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region of Europe, and recently in the United States. Mosquitoes become infected with the virus after feeding on infected wild birds and then transmit the virus through bites to people, animals, and birds.
Although there is a published report of WNV isolated from a dog in southern Africa (Botswana) in 1982, the majority of dogs exposed to WNV exhibited no clinical signs.
Dogs become infected the same way people become infected by infected mosquitoes bites. The virus is maintained in the mosquito’s salivary glands. During blood feeding, the virus is injected into the dog. The virus then multiplies and may cause clinical signs in a susceptible animal. Most infections are mild. If your dog shows signs of fever, depression, in-coordination, muscle weakness or spasms, seizures or paralysis, see your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s condition and give appropriate treatment.
Infected mosquitoes transmit WNV to dog through blood feeding. There is no documented evidence of person-to-person, animal-to-animal, or animal-to-person transmission of WNV. However, people who directly handle sick animals should take precautions such as wearing gloves to protect themselves from contact with saliva from sick animals that may actually have rabies rather than WNV infection.
There is no reason to destroy a dog just because it has been infected with West Nile virus. Full recovery from the infection occurs in most cases. Treatment would be supportive and customized to the presenting clinical signs. A veterinarian should be seen to evaluate any sick dog’s condition, to provide treatment and to forward samples for laboratory testing.
You can protect your dogs from WNV infection by
reducing their exposure to infected mosquitoes. To reduce the
mosquito population around your home minimize the time spent
outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
Apply products that kill or repel mosquitoes and are approved and
labeled for dog use. Your veterinarian can help you decide on the
appropriate product to use on your dog depending on species, age,
health status, and degree of exposure. Do not use products that
contain DEET on dogs. Use screens on windows and doors.
Mosquito populations can be reduced significantly by eliminating the amount of standing water. Dispose of bottles, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property. Do not overlook containers that have become overgrown by vegetation. Empty standing water from used or discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property. The used tire has become the most important domestic mosquito producer in this country. Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers and animal feeders that are left out of doors. Drainage holes that are located on the sides will allow enough water to collect for mosquitoes to breed. Clean clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains. Roof gutters are easily overlooked and can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
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