West Nile Virus in Dogs – is it a problem?

Chipper hiding in the weeds full of mosquitoes.
Chipper hiding in the weeds full of mosquitoes.

Here in northern Illinois we are at the height of mosquito season anytime we go outside near the grass or shrubs. Stepping on the lawn to pick up your dog’s morning dump causes a wave of mosquitoes to rise up to your bare legs, instigating a dance as you swat one, then another ,and another of these blood thirsty fiends. How many bite my dogs as they walk through the grass? It’s hard to tell since they don’t do the swatting dance that us human’s do, but I can see them swarming around their heads.

I can spray insect repellant containing DEET on my bare skin, but what about my dogs? Is it safe to spray them? – NO. Not even away from their faces. Dogs frequently lick themselves and DEET is toxic in higher amounts when ingested.

Can my dog get West Nile Virus? Yes, but it is rare, and can be serious leading to encephalitis or even death. Most mosquitoes don’t carry West Nile Virus and only 1% of people (and even fewer pets) that get infected will develop serious complications, most just feel like they have the flu. http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ccah/health_information/west_nile.cfm

Symptoms (for yourself and your pet): http://www.vetinfo.com/west-nile-virus-symptoms-in-dogs.html

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

A blood test will confirm if your pet is infected. Often the disease will go away on its own after a few days to a week. Older people and animals are more susceptible.


  • Remove standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are most active.
  • Use insect repellant on yourself and a canine insect repellant for your dog.
    • I have not tried a repellent recently on my dog, but K9 Advantix II claims to repel mosquitoes http://www.petparents.com/products.aspx/about/k9-advantix-ii
    • Others claim Avon’s Skin-So-Soft works well to repel mosquitoes. I had tried this product several decades ago and did not like having my dog smell like a flower, but at a recent meeting, someone claimed that it worked wonders at repelling mosquitoes.

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