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Keep pets away from pesticides

Pet owners should keep their animals away from the pesticides being sprayed to kill mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.

"When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry," advised Dr. Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association consultant. "Pet owners should maintain an ongoing dialogue with their veterinarians about the prevalence and prevention of insect-borne diseases, the selection and proper use of over the counter insect repellants and prescription medications, and the potential health effects and treatment of pesticide exposures for their companion animals."

Nearly 700 cases of West Nile virus in humans have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2012, the most cases since 2004. More than 80 percent of the cases have been reported from six states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and California.

The virus can cause serious illness or even death in horses and other equine pets, so these animals should be properly vaccinated. Horses and other livestock be confined in covered barns and stables during pesticide spraying.

Cats and dogs do not seem to suffer from the disease, which is passed from birds to other species, including humans, by mosquito bites.However, heartworm disease is another mosquito-borne threat to dogs and cats, and, in areas with large mosquito populations, pet owners should consult their veterinarians about heartworm disease prevention options.

To protect pets from the West Nile virus pesticides, the HSUS staff recommends:

  • Close all windows and doors and turn off air conditioning units as an extra safety precaution during spraying (be sure temperatures inside are not harmful for pets).
  • Carefully clean water and food bowls, toys, and other pet items that may have been left outdoors and exposed to pesticides.
  • Carefully rinse pets’ paws and other body surfaces after possible contact with pesticide residue remaining on sidewalks or lawns after spraying has concluded.
  • Take special precautions to ensure that puppies, kittens, elderly pets and pets with compromised immune systems are not inadvertently exposed to pesticides.

Although pesticide poisoning is unlikely, warning signs can include fever, vomiting, lethargy and neurological signs such as loss of balance or motor skills. If pets exhibit such symptoms, consult a veterinarian.

Centers For Disease Control Map of 2012 West Nile Virus Outbreak

CDC Map of 2012 Outbreak

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