West Nile Virus Symptoms in Dogs

The west Nile virus symptoms are often mistaken for flu or a respiratory infection. The dog should be properly diagnosed and receive medical attention, to ensure that there will be no complications. The west Nile virus is an infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause meningitis and encephalitis, which can be deadly.

Transmission of West Nile Virus

The west Nile virus is initially a disease affecting birds. The infected birds that are bitten by mosquitoes will transmit the virus to the insects, which become the carriers. The mosquito can infect pets, other animals and humans alike. If the virus enters the blood flow, the virus will be transported to the brain and other organs. The virus can easily cause meningitis or encephalitis or meningoencephalitis.

The virus thrives in woodlands, moist and warmer areas.

West Nile Virus Symptoms

The symptoms of the west Nile virus will start manifesting after the dog is bitten by the mosquito and the virus enters the blood stream. The incubation period may be between 24 hours and a few days. After the incubation period, symptoms will occur. Watch out for:

  • Elevated fever, which can persist for several days
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen lymph nodes, which you can palpate at the base of the dog’s neck or near the shoulders

These symptoms may sometimes be mistaken for flu symptoms. The symptoms may be milder or more severe, depending on how your dog reacts to the virus and on how strong his immune system is. Some dogs may develop encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain and can be fatal if not treated. Immunocompromised dogs are more likely to develop more severe symptoms once infected with the virus.

Detecting the West Nile Virus

 A blood test can detect the presence of the antibodies secreted once the west Nile virus enters the dog’s blood stream. The vet will have to establish if the dog has more severe symptoms involving the inflammation of the brain.

Treatment Options for West Nile in Dogs

The treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. If the dog succeeds in fighting off the virus, the fever and the symptoms may subside within 3 to 5 days. If the dog cannot fight off the virus, he will need IV fluids and supportive care.

Preventing the West Nile Virus in Dogs

The west Nile virus can be prevented in your dog by avoiding trips to woodlands or areas with standing waters (where mosquito larvae may be present). If you decide to take trips in areas that may have mosquitoes that carry the virus, make sure you use mosquito repellents on you and your dog. Apply the repellents on all areas of the dog’s body, including less visible areas such as the inside of the ear flaps. Reapply the repellents if your dog gets wet or opt for repellents that are waterproof. Citronella candles can be also used if you are camping.