In case you didn't worry about your dog's health enough, the recent discussions around Zika have raised new concerns for dog owners.
This relatively new and growing virus is impacting thousands of people in many different countries and, so far, has not been contained.
Plenty of dog owners are wondering if they need to take protective measures to keep their pets safe.
What is Zika?
Zika is a virus transmitted by a particular form of mosquito. A mosquito bites a person with the virus, and when it bites another person, the virus is passed on. While there have been some links between sexual intimacy and virus transmission, research is inconclusive on how much contact can spread the virus.
For most people, getting the virus is no big deal. They might feel sick, experiencing symptoms like headaches, fatigue or sensitivity to light, but it passes quickly and then the patient is back to normal. But it can become dangerous for pregnant women and unborn babies. Zika is linked to a condition called microcephaly, which causes birth defects.
Can Zika Affect Animals?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs are not at risk of contracting the virus themselves, nor can they spread it to people.
In a small study of apes and monkeys in Brazil, some monkeys and apes were found to have the Zika virus in their systems, but did not show any symptoms and their babies did not have any abnormalities. Other than apes, no other animals have been identified with the virus.
Can Zika Be Prevented?
Some scientists caution that just because there have not been any cases of Zika in dogs so far, that does not mean it's impossible for them to get the disease. To be on the safe side, veterinarians do recommend some preventative measures if you live in an area where the virus has been prevalent.
The mosquitos that carry Zika only bite during the day, so by walking your dog in the early mornings or nights, you can avoid the virus-carrying bugs. If you have any water containers, such as buckets, trash cans, or bird baths near your home, empty them completely so that mosquitos are not attracted to any standing water.
At this time, there's no evidence that your dog can get Zika or pass it on to you. There have been zero reported cases of domestic animals carrying the disease. But to be on the safe side, taking some extra measures will keep you and your pet healthy.