ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center And AMVA Offer Pet Safety Tips During Mosquito Spraying To Prevent Spread Of West Nile Virus

As more cases of West Nile virus-associated illness have been diagnosed in people and horses, communities have taken steps to prevent spread of the virus. Mosquito control is the most effective means of preventing spread of the West Nile virus and many communities are including spray application of pesticides in their control programs. Although approved pesticides for mosquito control pose minimal risk when used by professionals, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the offer the following tips to help pet owners limit their pets' exposure to these pesticides:

Steps to Reduce Pet Exposure to Pesticides Used for Mosquito Control

  • Know when pesticides will be sprayed in your community.

  • Keep pets indoors during times when pesticides are being sprayed. Elderly or debilitated animals or those with preexisting health conditions, such as heart disease or asthma, may be more sensitive to airborne pesticides and chemicals.
  • Close windows and turn off window-unit air conditioners when spraying is taking place in the immediate area.
  • Bring pet dishes, toys, and other items inside while pesticides are being sprayed. If these items have been accidentally exposed to the spray, wash the items with soap and water and rinse well before reintroducing the items to your pets.
  • Horses should be kept in their stalls or in a lean-to during spraying.
  • Cover water troughs and water buckets during spraying.
  • Cover fishponds during spraying, as fish can be sensitive to certain pesticides.
  • If you suspect that your pet is experiencing difficulties, contact your veterinarian immediately.

West Nile viral encephalitis is a mosquito-borne infection of the brain caused by the West Nile virus. West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, and can infect people and animals. Wild birds, horses, and humans are the species most often affected; however, the virus has also been identified in cats, dogs, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels and domestic rabbits.

Although these latter species may become infected, they usually do not develop clinical signs of disease. Risk of contracting West Nile virus is low. In areas where mosquitoes carry the virus, less than 1% are actually infected. Even if mosquitoes are infected, less than 1% of people bitten and infected by those mosquitoes become severely ill.

Most infections in humans are relatively mild, with flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches and, in some cases, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Signs of more severe infections include high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis. Death rates associated with severe infection range from 3% to 15% and are highest among the elderly.

For more poison prevention tips, please visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's Web site at For more information about West Nile virus and ensuring your pet's good health, contact your veterinarian and visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's Web site at

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is the only animal poison control center in North America. Established in 1978 at the University of Illinois, the Center is the only facility of its kind staffed by twenty-five veterinarians including four board-certified veterinary toxicologists and ten certified veterinary technicians. Located in Urbana, Illinois, the specially trained staff provides assistance to pet owners and specific analysis and treatment recommendation to veterinarians pertaining to toxic chemicals and dangerous plants, products or substances 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 2001, the Center handled over 65,000 cases. The Center also provides extensive veterinary toxicology expert consulting on a wide array of subjects includes legal cases, formulation issues, product liability and regulatory reporting. To reach The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline call 1-888-426-4435.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, founded in 1863, is the oldest and largest veterinary medical organization in the world. More than 67,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA Web site at to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care, and to access up-to-date information on the association's issues, policies and activities.

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