Q: I live on Brickell, and I’m worried about Zika infecting my pets (we have dogs and cats). When it’s not windy out we already have mosquitoes biting us when we’re out on the balcony. I can only imagine how much worse it is for everyone else! Is there anything we can do to keep our dogs and cats from getting sick?
A: As of now we believe only primates can become infected by Zika via the bite of certain mosquitos. There’s absolutely zero evidence that dogs or cats can contract or transmit the virus. But we can’t be 100 percent sure since studies haven’t been done. Given that we haven’t observed any Zika-like illnesses in pets, however, it seems almost certain that pets are not at risk.
But that doesn’t mean mosquitoes aren’t a problem for our pets. Heartworm disease is a big deal in South Florida for both dogs and cats. Dogs are especially susceptible. Though cats are not the preferred host for the worm-like parasite, some cats have been found to suffer life-threatening infections, too.
Luckily, there are plenty of mosquito- and heartworm-specific products on the market to help prevent infection and transmission in both cats and dogs. Heartgard, Revolution, Trifexis and Iverhart are just a few. But these just prevent the heartworm parasite –– not the mosquitoes themselves.
According to the new Companion Animal Parasite Council Mosquito Control Guidelines (petsandparasites.org), however, several products are now available to help repel and kill mosquitoes for an entire month.
According to the CAPC, “recent research indicates that treatment of dogs with a combination of dinotefuran, permethrin and pyriproxyfen (Vectra 3D®) inhibits uptake of [heartworm] from infected dogs and prevents transmission of [heartworm] from infected mosquitoes to non-infected dogs.”
An important note, however: These topical products should never be used in cats (or humans, for that matter, since they’ve not yet been approved by the FDA). Long-lasting permethrin-impregnated clothing and bedding is also available (for dogs) to help repel mosquitoes. A complete list of products is at capcvet.org.
One final note: Be careful of “natural” products containing essential oils. Cats especially can be extra sensitive to these products should they ingest them. If you do use essential oils, diffusing them in and around the home is a much safer option.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.