Domestic dogs and cats were infected by mosquito bite and evaluated as hosts for West Nile virus (WNV). Viremia of low magnitude and short duration developed in four dogs but they did not display signs of disease. Four cats became viremic, with peak titers ranging from 10 3.0 to 10 4.0 PFU/mL. Three of the cats showed mild, non-neurologic signs of disease. WNV was not isolated from saliva of either dogs or cats during the period of viremia. An additional group of four cats were exposed to WNV orally, through ingestion of infected mice. Two cats consumed an infected mouse on three consecutive days, and two cats ate a single infected mouse. Viremia developed in all of these cats with a magnitude and duration similar to that seen in cats infected by mosquito bite, but none of the four showed clinical signs. These results suggest that dogs and cats are readily infected by WNV. The high efficiency of oral transmission observed with cats suggests that infected prey animals may serve as an important source of infection to carnivores. Neither species is likely to function as an epidemiologically important amplifying host, although the peak viremia observed in cats may be high enough to infect mosquitoes at low efficiency.
Austgen LE, Bowen RA, Bunning ML, Davis BS, Mitchell CJ, Chang G-JJ. Experimental infection of cats and dogs with West Nile virus. Emerg Infect Dis [serial online] 2004 Jan [ date cited ]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol10no1/02-0616.htm