February 17, 2016 Uncategorized

One Medicine: Zika Fever and Lead Poisoning in Pets

One Medicine: Zika Fever and Lead Poisoning in Pets

It is no secret that humans and their pets share a variety of diseases, such as ringwormstaph infections or food borne illness. Over the past few weeks, health news has been dominated by the Zika virus epidemic and lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. Concerned pet owners will want to know if these illnesses can affect their pet and what precautions they can take to protect their furry family member.
Zika Virus
The Zika virus, named for the Zika Forest of Uganda, was a relatively unknown Arbovirus, until an explosive epidemic of microcephaly was linked to Zika virus infections in Brazil. Arboviruses are so named because they are ARthropod BOrne infections. In addition to Zika fever, Dengue fever, West Nile virus infection and chikungunya infections are all arbovirus infections spread by mosquitoes. Zika virus does affect animals – primates and rodents – but reports of infection in dogs and cats are lacking. We know dogs and cats can contract diseases from mosquitoes, the most significant of which is heartworm disease. Protecting your pet against mosquito bites will help protect them against West Nile virus, heartworms and any other emerging mosquito borne disease. Here are some mosquito bite protection tips:

  • Keep your pet indoors when mosquitos are most active – early morning and evening.
  • Drain all areas of standing water where mosquitos can breed.
  • Ask your veterinarian about safe mosquito repellants for your dog and cat.
  • Remember products safe for dogs may not be safe for cats.

Canine Lead Poisoning
One of the reasons we share diseases with our pets is that we share our homes, our food and our water with them. It should come as no surprise that a recent report indicates lead poisoning has been diagnosed in two dogs in Flint, where lead poisoning is taking a heavy toll on children. The link between lead poisoning in children and pets has been known for years.
The dogs in Flint were exposed to lead via the contaminated water supply, but most commonly, lead ingestion in pets comes from peeling paint or ingestion of lead objects like bullets. Lead poisoning can be diagnosed via a blood test, and in cases where the lead level is high, treatment with a medication to bind up the lead is administered. In dogs and cats with lead poisoning, gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, predominate. Behavior changes are often noted:  pets may have seizures, be hyperactive or lethargic. A review of blood counts may identify the presence of abnormal red blood cells as a result of the lead poisoning.
How to Prevent Lead Poisoning:

  • Test your pets for lead if your children are diagnosed with lead poisoning.
  • Test your children for lead if your pets are diagnosed with lead poisoning.
  • Use bottled water for your pets if the water supply is contaminated with lead.
  • Repair all peeling paint immediately.
  • See your veterinarian if you are concerned about lead intoxication in your pets.