How to Protect Your Animals and Yourself From Zika Virus

Zika virus first captured the full attention of the general public of the U.S. during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Although the virus is thought to have originated in the Central African nation of Uganda, it has almost become synonymous with Brazil in the years since the Olympics.

Zika is transmitted between and among humans by mosquito bite. It causes only mild symptoms initially, but it has been linked to a major increase in the incidence of birth defects in the offspring of mothers who have had the virus. These birth defects include eye problems, reduced intelligence, and microcephaly (an abnormally small head).

The virus has been detected in human saliva and may be transmissible through sexual contact. Because of the potential seriousness of contracting the virus, public health officials have cautioned travelers against visiting areas with a large incidence of the disease, and many countries have elected to spray insecticides to lower the population of mosquitos to curb the transmission of the disease.

Read on to learn more about what officials do and do not currently know about the Zika virus, including how the virus could affect your pets.

how zika affects pets

Dogs, Cats, and Other Household Pets

No case of zika virus has been recorded in cats, dogs, or other common household pets. That said, there has been very little research conducted thus far on zika in pets. Nearly all of the research on the virus has been directed toward stopping its transmission among humans, and toward understanding its potential short and long-term health effects.

The virus is not currently thought to affect companion animals. It may be possible, however, for a pet to contract the virus the same way most humans do, through a mosquito bite. It may also be possible for another mosquito to get the virus from that pet and to then pass it along. For this reason, keeping your pets’ potential exposure to mosquito bites is always a good best practice.

Zika Virus and Other Animals

Some research has been done on the effects of zika in other species of animals. It may be possible for horses, cows, goats, and other domesticated animals to contract the virus, and many exotic animals (such as monkeys) have been known to carry it, as well.

In fact, the first documented case of zika virus was recorded in 1940 in a monkey with a mild fever in Uganda. Bats, water buffaloes, and ducks were all found to carry the disease as well by a research study conducted in Indonesia.

Staying Safe From Zika

Despite spraying for mosquitos and educating the public on the health concerns associated with the spread of zika, the virus has been spreading steadily across the globe over the past several decades. Where once its spread was limited to Asia and Africa, the virus has now been found in every continent, save Antarctica.

Though zika may not directly affect your dog or cat, it is too early (from a research perspective) to rule out the possibility that your pet may be a potential carrier of the disease. This is not a reason for panic, however. Follow the precautionary measures advocated by the CDC—especially if you are pregnant, or may wish to become pregnant one day.

Author: Giano Panzarella