The veterinarian community has issued a warning to pet parents about the West Nile Virus, on the heels of a similar warning for humans. Record-breaking cases in the US and Canada have prompted the warning, along with similar weather patterns to last year.

Like humans, pets may contract the West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite. Ticks are currently being studied as carriers, and may be infectious (at least to birds). Animals that eat live food, like hunting cats, may contract the virus through their prey. We’ve provided species-specific details for you below. If you suspect your pet has contracted the West Nile Virus, please see your veterinarian.

CDC Pet alert issued for West Nile VirusThe West Nile Virus in Dogs and Cats

Reported instances of the West Nile Virus in dogs and cats are on the low side. However, since pets often exhibit mild symptoms that are nonspecific, it’s highly likely there are many more cases than records show.

Symptoms may include decreased appetite, lethargy or slight fever, but often no symptoms are present. There is no cure or vaccine for the West Nile Virus but your cat or dog will almost certainly recover on their own. There may be an increased risk to animals with a compromised immune system due to age or preexisting conditions.

Both dogs and cats have relatively low levels of the virus in their bloodstream, so the risk of them passing the disease on to humans, animals or even mosquitoes, is thought to be low. Since the West Nile Virus hasn’t been extensively studied in pets, we do suggest you take precautions. To date, the virus hasn’t been found in dog or cat saliva.

Insect repellents for pets are available and your vet should have recommendations. DEET-based repellents are toxic to pets and should never be used, nor should your pet be allowed to lick you when you’re wearing it.

The West Nile Virus in Horses

The virus poses a more serious threat to horses than it does to dogs and cats, but most do recover from infection. However, horse deaths have been reported. A West Nile Virus vaccine has been developed for horses.

West Nile viral infection crosses the blood-brain barrier to infect the brain, where it can then cause brain inflammation (encephalitis) and interfere with central nervous system function. Symptoms of the West Nile Virus in horses are usually present within two weeks of infection. Symptoms may include decreased appetite, lethargy, hyper-excitability, fever and sweating, impaired vision, grinding teeth, muscle tremors or weakness (ataxia), stiff neck, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and paralysis.

There is no documentation to support horse-human or horse-horse transmission of the West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes feeding on an infected horse while it is infectious may then pass the virus to humans, but further study is required on this theory as well.

The West Nile Virus in Pet Birds

This virus originates with birds and does cause death, but recovery is possible. Over a hundred species of birds are known to have been infected and there is a risk to captive pet birds.

WNV crosses the blood-brain barrier in birds, causing brain inflammation (encephalitis) and central nervous system dysfunction. Symptoms may not be present before collapse, or may include fever, stiff neck, disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, muscle tremors or weakness (ataxia), convulsions, and paralysis.

There is no evidence of direct bird-human West Nile Virus transmission.

Preventing the West Nile Virus in Pets

  • Keep pets inside at peek mosquito times (evening, night, after rain, etc)
  • Wrap screen around the outside of cages
  • Avoid contained bodies of water in which water birds are frequent visitors
  • Eliminate standing water and dump, clean and replace pasture water daily
  • Aerate ornamental ponds and/or stock them with fish
  • Use sonic devices to repel mosquitoes outdoors

Improving the Odds of Survival and Alleviating SymptomsCan dogs, cats, birds, and horses get the West Nile Virus?

  • Feed a highly nutritious, balanced diet
  • Include anti-viral foods in the diet
  • Include foods in the diet that stimulate the immune system
  • Naturally-derived nutrients that are proven to help fight viral infections include Vitamins A, C and E, Selenium and Zinc. Look for foods high in antioxidants and carotene to boost immunity.

Fresh, or high quality dehydrated foods and herbs that are noted for their anti-viral properties include:

Citrus fruit
Reishie or Shitake mushooms
Brussels sprouts
Yogurt with active cultures
Raw honey
Dandelion leaves
Lemon Balm
Seaweed & Algae
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay
Unrefined, virgin coconut oil
Green Tea
Aloe Vera

You can easily add these ingredients to our natural pet food and treat recipes. Consult your veterinarian before making major changes in the diet or using herbs & essential oils.

Heavily-diluted essential oils may be used on dogs, horses and most livestock to repel insects through aromatherapy or in a natural shampoo. Naturally repel mosquitoes with Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Citronella (Cymbopogon nardas), and Lemon (Citrus limon). Do not use on or around birds and cats.  It’s important to use high quality, fresh herbs and essential oils for the full effect.  We rely on Starwest Botanicals for most of our herbs and essential oils.

Natural Pet Care Blog CommentsHave your pets contracted the West Nile Virus? Are you worried they might? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Austgen et al. Experimental Infection of Cats and Dogs with West Nile Virus. Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal. 2004.
Wissman, Margaret A. D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P. West Nile Virus: What You Must Know For Your Bird’s Sake. 2006.
Canadian Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Disease. 2012.
US Center for Disease Control West Nile Virus. 2012.
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 2012.
Kellon, Eleanor M. VMD. Horse Journal Guide to Equine Supplements and Neutraceuticals. 2008.
Bell, Kristen Leigh. Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with AnimalsHolistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols for pet muscle sprains, strains and spasms. 2002.
Balch, Phyllis. Prescription for Nutritional HealingPrescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements. 2010.
Engel, Cindy. Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal KingdomWild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal Kingdom. 2003.
Levy, Juliette. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable 1991.
Tilford, Gregory. Wulff, Mary. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s LifeHerbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet's Life. 2009.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Double the Power of Seaweed by Mixing Species (Infographic)
Are Edible Mushrooms Good for Dogs, Cats, Horses and other Pets?
Ringworm: Natural Prevention and Treatment (With Poultice Recipe)
DIY Natural Shaker Supplements for Homemade Pet Food
Using Nutritive Herbs for Pet Dietary Supplements (with Recipe)


© All Natural Pet Care BlogContent on this website may not be used elsewhere without expressed permission. You are welcome to link to this post for reference, discussion, etc. Content theft will result in legal action. Thank you for respecting the effort that we have put into our original content. If you would like to have quality content created for you, please contact our writer directly.

DISCLOSURE: We may receive compensation for links to products on this website.

DISCLAIMER: Statements on this website may not have been evaluated by the FDA, Health Canada nor any other government regulator. The information and products provided by are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, nor prevent any disease and are intended for educational purposes only. READ MORE…

COMMENTS ARE MODERATED – Legitimate comments will be published after a short delay. Spam will not be published.


7 thoughts on “West Nile Virus Info and Natural Prevention for Pets

  1. They’ve been trying to rid the planet of mosquitos for a long time but it will never happen. At least control the water on your property to cut them down.

  2. Oh no…not again! Last year we had horses catching West Nile virus all summer long where I board my horses.We escaped last year but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. Going to whip up some antiviral horse treats to help protect.

  3. They’ve found birds with the west nile virus around here!! I don’t know how we’re supposed to protect pets unless we keep them inside all the time!! They need a vaccine!!

  4. OMG…… scary! I just want to keep both dogs and three cats inside all summer!

Comments are closed.