EEE rare in dogs and cats

It’s bad enough that we humans now need to worry about EEE, but are our pets at risk? I have a dog and two cats and live about 40 minutes southwest of Boston. Some of the cases were identified out here and my town is now on the critical list.

It seems that every day more people are being diagnosed and even dying. Will this continue and for how long?

I understand it comes from mosquitoes but how concerned should I be for my pets? When I spend any length of time outdoors, I am careful to use insect repellent on myself but do I need to put this on my pets too and would it be safe? Is there a vaccine?

EEE — Eastern Equine Encephalitis — has been around for a very long time. It is initially spread by mosquitoes known as Culiseta that have bitten a bird carrying the virus, however in humans, other mosquito species are often the carriers. Every few years, it seems to rear its ugly head.

As I am sure you have read, it can be deadly but that is not always the case. This year, one third of the humans diagnosed with EEE have become fatalities. Diagnosis is done by serology. Those that survive may or may not have permanent neurological signs and recover with supportive care.

The name of the virus suggests which primary mammalian species can be affected, and that is the horse. Other species like goats, deer and pigs can also be affected and recently a wolf puppy in Michigan died from EEE although, in general, it is quite rare for dogs or cats to be diagnosed with EEE or to die from it.

There is a vaccine available, but only for horses, and due to the limited amount of cases and prevalence, there is not enough demand for a vaccine to be developed and used in humans or pets.

There are commercial insect repellents available for pets and I would suggest you use those over sprays that you might use on yourself. You can always consult with your veterinarian or contact the manufacturer of whatever product you choose.

Know that human sprays with DEET can be highly toxic and even fatal to dogs and if you spray yourself, don’t let the dog lick your skin! Avoid shady areas with your pets or yourself and nighttimes outdoors as mosquitoes prefer darker places or times to feed. Also, be sure to not let stagnant water basins be around your home as mosquitoes may breed there. As the weather gets colder, the cases will become less frequent as there will be fewer mosquitoes outside.

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