The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) issued the Top 10 Cities Heartworm Report reflecting positive heartworm test results from the last 30 to 45 days with Indianapolis, Indiana, ranking #4 and Fort Wayne ranking #10 in the nation. In its mission to continuously monitor and report emerging threats to companion animals, CAPC recently launched its new monthly report initiative to alert pet parents, veterinarians, and pet-related service providers about U.S. metropolitan areas experiencing the highest percent increases in positive heartworm tests in dogs and cats.
“What the new CAPC Top 10 Cities Heartworm Report demonstrates is that heartworm disease — transmitted by mosquitoes — is a national threat to pets who are increasingly vulnerable to this debilitating and potentially fatal illness in most communities across the country,” said Dr. Michael Yabsley, CAPC board member and professor in the Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. “It takes just one heartworm-infected dog in an area to become a reservoir of infection, increasing the number of infected mosquitoes and ultimately spreading the heartworm parasite to unprotected dogs and cats. This is why CAPC recommends monthly heartworm protection and annual testing for both heartworm antigens and microfilariae —regardless of where pets live or travel.”
Nationally, prevalence rates for heartworm have risen each of the last five years and are now up 20% from 2013 levels, according to CAPC. “Many pet owners mistakenly think their dog or cat isn’t at risk for heartworm because they don’t live in what has been historically considered a heartworm ‘endemic’ region of the country. “This is no longer the case,” said Dr. Cassan Pulaski, DVM, MPH, CAPC board member and Merck Resident in Veterinary Parasitology, School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University. “While southern regions of the country have historically been associated with heartworm, we now know pets all over the country are potentially at risk for heartworm disease throughout the year.”
When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it transfers the microscopic heartworm parasite (larvae) to the next dog or cat it bites. It only takes one heartworm-infected dog to substantially increase the number of infected mosquitos that can transmit heartworm parasites. This was clearly demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology which found over 73% of mosquitoes collected inside the kennel of just one heartworm-infected dog, demonstrating that “a single heartworm-positive dog potentially increases infection pressure on susceptible animals sharing mosquito exposure.”
“In an increasingly mobile society, pets are vulnerable to heartworm disease in every community,” Prior added. “The neighbor next door may have adopted a new rescue dog and, despite good intentions, hasn’t yet had it tested for heartworms. Meanwhile, it may be heartworm positive, posing a high risk of exposure to your pet.”
“Most people consider their pets as family members and wouldn’t knowingly expose them to infection with a potentially fatal disease that can ultimately compromise the length and quality of their lives. Yet millions who fail to protect their pets every month from heartworm infection are doing just that,” Prior added. “The risk just isn’t worth it. Heartworm preventatives are affordable, safe and effective. This is why CAPC recommends all pets, no matter where they live, be tested annually and placed on heartworm preventatives 12 months of the year.”
In addition to the cities in CAPC Top 10 Heartworm Report, many other communities also are experiencing increases in heartworm prevalence. To help pet parents and veterinarians monitor heartworm prevalence in their community, CAPC provides a monthly, county-by-county Heartworm disease forecast (petdiseasealerts.org/).