sealPurdue News

September 26, 2002

Protecting pets against insect-borne diseases

Dogs and cats are unlikely to become ill if exposed to West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes, according to Purdue University veterinarians. But it's important to protect pets from insect bites because they can be infected with other diseases.

Owners should use pet-approved tick and flea controls and limit pets' exposure to areas infested by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, said Lynn Guptill, Purdue small animal veterinarian. Pets can become ill if sprayed with repellent formulated for human use, she said.

"Though the most effective repellents for people are those with diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), this can make pets sick," Guptill said. "Only use products approved for pets."

In addition, some flea collars, sprays and oral medications are specifically for a dog or specifically for a cat and can't be used interchangeably.

Although evidence of West Nile can be found in pets' blood, other tick-borne illnesses, such as ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and mosquito- or flea-borne diseases, such as heartworm, are the ones that sicken pets, Guptill said.

CONTACT: Lynn Guptill, (765) 494-1107,