West Nile virus: could our pets be at risk?

Mosquitoes are out and biting big time this year in South Louisiana.

Officials are already warning about higher rates of West Nile so far this year compared to years past.

"Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile can be spread to horses, dogs, cats, alligators, and of course, humans," said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain.

State officials sent out an alert to animal owners, specifically horse owners and trainers.

"Horses are infected the same way humans become infected, by being bitten by infected mosquitoes. We want people to also be mindful of mosquitoes and to take preventative measures to stay safe," said Strain. 

Veterinarian, Dr. Phillip Waguespack says people should pay attention.

"Dogs and cats can get the West Nile virus, but a lot of times they will show no clinical signs; it's asymptomatic," Dr. Waguespack added.
Although Dr. Waguespack says he's only seen one really serious case of the West Nile virus in a dog, he says because there are so many mosquitoes out there, dogs or cats are not completely safe.
"The main concern we have with mosquitoes is heart worm disease in both dogs and cats, much more common in dogs than cats," Dr. Waguespack said.

"It's funny, a lot of times the mosquitoes won't bother the dogs that bad, but it could easily cause heart worm disease. You can prevent it by keeping them on a heart worm medicine," Dr. Waguespack said.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.