Downeast Dog News

Can my dog get EEE

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH | Nov 01, 2019

Q. I was in Massachusetts recently and there was an announcement over the highway from the CDC about EEE. What is it, and can my dog get it?

A. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a virus that is carried by birds and is spread by mosquitoes. People, horses, llamas, and alpacas are at greater risk of getting sick than dogs. Dogs usually have mild symptoms and recover from this disease.

EEE is a disease seen mostly in the southeastern United States, but it is being diagnosed all along the East. A few cases of very young dogs housed outside in the South have been reported.

So what are the symptoms of EEE? The virus will cause an inflammation of the brain called encephalitis. Because of the inflammation, the symptoms can include fever, weakness, depression, loss of appetite, uncoordinated movements, convulsions, circling, head pressing, irritability, blindness, and coma. If the symptoms are severe, the animal could die. Though these are the symptoms seen in humans and other mammals, dogs are fortunate to not have the severity of symptoms. Most commonly, they may exhibit flu-like symptoms. When other animals exhibit these symptoms, other diseases must be ruled out, such as rabies. If this disease is suspected and it is mosquito season, the veterinarian submits blood or tissue to a lab to confirm. Testing is rarely required in dogs.

Birds like emus, ostriches, and other game birds can acquire EEE but they develop blooding gastrointestinal tracks and can die suddenly. EEE is not spread from animal to animal. It is spread by an infected mosquito; however, if your dog is exposed to the feces or blood of a diseased bird with EEE, he could get it by direct contact.

Animals that get sick are treated with supportive care like fluids, medicines to control the signs of illness, and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Massachusetts has seen a number of cases this year, so the CDC is trying to alert people about the risk.

In Maine last August, one horse was diagnosed with EEE in York County.

Here is how you can reduce your risk and that of your dog getting this disease. Use a reputable insect repellent. Remove any stagnant water that can be used as a mosquito breeding ground. This includes run off from your house that pools, old tires, water in flower pots or caught in leaf debris and bird baths, anything that can collect water. Avoid letting Fido out at the most active mosquito times (dawn and dusk). Fix any screens that have holes. Don’t leave lights on outside overnight. Mosquitos are attracted to the light. Remove piles of garden debris, such as leaves, lawn clippings, and manure. There is no vaccination for dogs.

At this time EEE is a low risk virus in Maine. With the change in climate, we may see more cases. By being proactive and taking common sense precautions, this disease will stay at low risk.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, ME