Heartworms and hookworms and fleas, oh my!! Get ready- the forecast is that this year’s combination of unseasonably warm winter temperatures and plenty of springtime precipitation is going to produce a deluge of parasite problems for our pets including: heartworm disease, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms).
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) predicts a substantial nationwide rise in parasites above normal levels. Hardest hit will be the southern portion of the United States (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana). The CAPC anticipates that 2012 will be a “banner year” for heartworm disease, and that even the slightest deviations from administering heartworm preventive as recommended could pose significant health threats for pets.
The CAPC is also predicting a jump in parasite populations within the Northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia) and the Midwest (Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska), particularly in areas with above-average temperatures and rainfall. During the past five to ten years, the incidence of heartworm disease has been on the rise in both the Northeast and the Midwest.
Washington, Oregon, and Northern California are expected to experience moderate increases in companion animal parasite populations this year. The parasite forecast for Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho is moderate compared to other regions in the country.
Sounds like there will be no hiding from parasites this year! In order to protect your dogs and cats from these pesky varmints I suggest the following:
1. Talk with your veterinarian about the products best suited for protecting your dogs and cats against heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks. There are a variety of products to choose from and their effectiveness can change from year to year. Your veterinarian will be “in the know” about which preventive medications have the current best track record. Be reminded, animals with thick hair coats or those who are housed mostly indoors remain susceptible to heartworm disease.
2. Be downright religious in adhering to a schedule for administration of your pet’s heartworm prevention medication. This year in particular, missing the mark by even a week or two could have dire consequences.
3. Set up a schedule for routine testing for parasites. Your veterinarian can advise you on how frequently your pets should be screened for intestinal parasites and heartworm disease.
4. Check out the CAPC website  to have a look at parasite prevalence maps (updated monthly) and get information about your specific geographic area.
5. Visit the American Heartworm Society website  to catch up on the most current information pertaining to heartworm prevention for dogs and cats.
Are you “good to go” with a parasite prevention plan for your dogs and cats? What will your strategy be?