Protecting Pets and Livestock from West Nile Virus - Frequently Asked Questions

Can pets and livestock get West Nile virus infection?

Yes. Pets and livestock can become infected with West Nile virus (WNV) if fed on by mosquitoes that carry the virus.

What signs of infection should I look for?

Encephalitis is an infection of the brain. Sick animals may have a fever, weakness, incoordination, muscle spasms, and signs of a neurological disease, such as a change in temperament or seizures.

What should I do if I suspect my pet has West Nile virus?

If your animal is sick, contact your veterinarian. The veterinarian will evaluate your animal, provide treatment, and forward samples for laboratory testing to rule out other possible diseases, such as Lyme disease. The Department of Agriculture will assist veterinarians in determining if WNV is the cause once the suspicious neurological disease is reported.

Can I catch West Nile virus from animals?

WNV is spread to humans when an infected mosquito feeds on them. It is not transmitted directly to people from animals, birds, or other people. However, people who directly handle sick animals should take precautions, such as wearing gloves to protect themselves.

Is there a vaccine for pets and livestock for West Nile virus?

No approved vaccine currently exists to protect animals from WNV infection. Several vaccines are in development for animals, especially horses. See your veterinarian for the latest information.

In addition, a surveillance program has been set up to look for WNV in mosquitoes and monitor for bird deaths and suspicious illness in people and horses to identify areas where WNV is present before it becomes a threat to humans.

How is West Nile virus infection in animals treated?

As in people, there are no specific treatments for WNV infection in animals. Treatment is primarily supportive to lessen the severity of the clinical signs.

How can I protect pets and livestock from West Nile virus infection?

You can reduce the risk of West Nile virus infection in animals by minimizing exposure to infected mosquitoes.

What measures are being taken to protect domestic animals?

Connecticut has developed and implemented a statewide WNV response plan that includes surveillance, control strategies, and dissemination of information. State and federal agencies are working together to identify the presence of WNV. Reducing mosquito-breeding habitats in each community can greatly lower the potential for West Nile virus to become a significant threat to humans and domestic animals.

Where do I call if I need more information on West Nile virus in domestic animals?

Call the Office of the State Veterinarian, Department of Agriculture at 860-713-2505.

How can I protect my home, pets, and myself from West Nile virus?

You can begin by reducing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding around your home.

  • Dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers.
  • Empty standing water from used or discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property (e.g., tire swings).
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left out of doors.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use. A wading pool becomes a mosquito producer if it is not used on a regular basis.
  • Do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths or wading pools. Change the water weekly.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock with fish.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.

Content last updated on April 5, 2019.