Your Pet is at Risk for Heartworm Disease this Spring
Each year, nearly half of the more than 78 million pet dogs in the United States go unprotected against heartworm, a serious and potentially fatal disease for both dogs and cats. The good news for pets and pet owners everywhere is that heartworm disease is 100-percent preventable every day of the year with an easy-to-administer medication. Your veterinarian can recommend a safe and effective preventive to eliminate the risk of heartworm infection, which exists every month of the year, no matter where you live.
To help remind people how important prevention is, leading parasitologists with the Companion Animal Parasite Council are proud to provide a first-of-its kind parasite forecast as a public service. We want pet owners everywhere to be especially vigilant in protecting themselves, and their pets, from the risks that parasites pose.
Heartworm in Dogs and Cats
Contrary to popular belief, heartworm disease has been diagnosed in every U.S. state — even in climates that are considered unfavorable to the proliferation of mosquitoes, the insects that spread heartworm.
Through April 2012, the CAPC forecast calls for high levels of heartworm populations in five U.S. regions:
South: West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana
Northeast: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia
Midwest: Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska
Northwest: Washington, Oregon and Northern California
West: Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
The CAPC’s spring parasite forecast is based on data from the National Weather Service and test results from clinics and shelters across the country. The forecast comprises the collective expert opinion of leading parasitologists on the CAPC Board, who engage in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor heartworm transmission and changing lifecycles.
The key indicators that point to increased numbers of heartworms this spring are anticipated above-normal temperatures and precipitation amounts, because mosquitoes thrive in wet, warm climates.
Prevention is Key
Heartworm in dogs is difficult and expensive to treat, and there is no effective cure for the disease in cats. The safest solution is to eliminate the possibility of pets ever contracting the condition. Parasite preventives are easy to use, and they work if you follow the dosage instructions and your veterinarian’s recommendations. Some require monthly applications, while others must be given semi-annually, but all of the medications on the market provide year-round protection.
Don’t inadvertently expose your pet to the risk of parasite infection this year. Take a moment to explore the threat in your region and county by viewing our parasite prevalence maps and visit with your veterinarian about the best prevention options for your pet and your family.
Byron Blagburn, MS, PhD - Dr. Blagburn is a distinguished professor in the department of Pathobiology at Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Ala.