Zika virus was first discovered in Africa back in the 1940’s in a monkey with a mild fever. Since then, the disease has spread all over the world. In humans, the virus causes a birth defect called microcephaly which means ‘small brain’. In animals, the virus has been found primarily in non-human primates. Most exposed monkeys and apes show no signs of illness. A small number will develop a mild, short-lived fever. The virus tends to appear in monkeys and apes that live close to humans who have the virus. A recent study of Brazil’s monkeys identified the virus in a small number of monkeys. So far, no monkey or ape babies have been born with microcephaly from Zika. It is unclear at this time whether the monkeys and apes are getting the virus from humans or vice versa. The prevalence of the virus in non-human primates is also unknown.
Other than the non-human primates, there is no evidence of Zika virus infections causing disease in other animals. One study from Indonesia performed in the 1970’s found that the virus could infect livestock and bats but there are no documented cases of any of these animals transmitting Zika virus to humans. More research is needed to determine if Zika is a zoonotic disease meaning animals can infect people (examples are rabies, ringworm and leptospirosis) or a reverse zoonotic disease meaning people infect (example is MRSA ).
Like dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile virus, Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos of the Andes species. Female mosquitos need the protein contained in blood to lay eggs. When mosquitos bite, they inject saliva into the wound that contains an anticoagulant to keep the victim’s blood from clotting. Their saliva can contain all kinds of infectious agents including viruses, bacteria and parasites (heartworm disease, malaria, etc.) contracted from prior victims. Once infected, a single mosquito can transmit disease to many animals and/or people. When monkeys and apes are infected with Zika, they develop antibodies against the virus in approximately 14 days. The antibodies clear the virus out of the blood stream stopping the spread of the disease. Since monkeys and apes are quarantined in screened in facilities for 31 days when entering the United States, this should prevent the disease spreading into local mosquitos. Currently, it is unknown if monkeys and apes are reservoirs for the disease.
The bottom line is that Zika virus is not a threat to dogs and cats. There are no studies that show canines or felines can be infected with the virus or spread it to humans.
-‘Questions and Answers: Zika Virus and Animals’, ARIZONA VETERINARY NEWS, Aril 2016.
-‘Zika and Animals: What we know.’ CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, Update June 8, 2016.