Cooler weather does not mean the end of mosquitoes and the nastiness they bring. While we are often reminded of mosquitoes' role in spreading heartworm disease in dogs and cats and the Zika virus in people, September is a prime month for another mosquito-borne disease, the West Nile virus.
West Nile virus can infect dogs, cats and even reptiles but it is horses and people that suffer the most. Symptoms are often absent in both people and horses, but serious cases usually involve a neurologic illness that can lead to death in some cases.
People should practice mosquito avoidance by limiting outside time when mosquitoes are most active and continue to drain stagnant breeding pools on their property. The use of an approved mosquito repellant also is advised.
Horse owners have a tougher time keeping mosquitoes off their animals, but should consider keeping their them in barns from dusk to dawn, using mosquito traps and fans (for air movement) and eliminating or treating standing water.
However, the good news is that a highly protective vaccine is available and, in many areas, should be part of a horse's regular health care. Ask your veterinarian to make sure your horse is vaccinated against West Nile virus and discuss ways to protect your health and that of your horse from mosquito-borne disease.