Bel Air, Md. - The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) believes revamping its parasite prevalence maps with real-time, localized information can help practitioners drive pet owners back into their clinics and reclaim their position as the experts on animal health.
BEL AIR, MD. — The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) believes revamping its parasite prevalence maps with real-time, localized information can help practitioners drive pet owners back into their clinics and reclaim their position as the experts on animal health.
"It's very important for veterinarians to understand that the days of sitting in the clinic waiting for the client to come in or connecting with them once a year are gone," says Chris Carpenter, DVM, MBA, CAPC's executive director. "For 10 years, CAPC has set the parasite control guidelines for the profession. We now have to help keep our profession healthy by talking to the consumer and making them realize how important (veterinarians) are. I think veterinarians have to really wake up to the call and understand that we have to get people back in our clinics, and I think parasite control is one of the best opportunities to do that."
Parasites present a dynamic, ever-changing obstacle to pet wellness, explains Carpenter, and CAPC's goal is to make sure every pet is tested and protected from parasites. But today's pet owner is doing something no one ever expected. They are going online to self-diagnose their pets, and then determining a course of treatment without veterinary involvement, he says.
"The data shows that 70 percent of people are making their (purchasing) decisions before they ever leave their home, and we have to be part of that discussion," Carpenter says.
In addition, the recent Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study shows that 30 percent of pet owners always or sometimes look to the Internet first when their pet is sick or injured, 15 percent of pet owners say they don't rely as much on their veterinarian as they did before the Internet, and 20 percent go online to fact-check after a veterinary visit.
"We want to make sure when they start looking around and talking in the virtual world ... we're out there talking as experts for them," Carpenter says. "We have to be part of the conversation. We have to be out there as the unbiased experts."
To do that, CAPC will launch a new campaign to inform pet owners about parasites by establishing the veterinarian as their best resource for local information. The council will relaunch its consumer website, petsandparasites.org, along with expanded parasite prevalence maps in spring 2012.
On the professional side, CAPC plans to relaunch its website for veterinarians and the medical community in January or February—just in time for CAPC's 10-year anniversary.
Dwight Bowman, MS, PhD, a professor of parasitology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University and CAPC board member is also preparing a detailed analysis of the data in the newest set of parasite prevalence maps.
While much of the 2012 campaign will focus on consumer education, Carpenter says veterinarians will be the center of the message. The campaign will use the parasite prevalence maps to illustrate the problem to the public, he adds.
"We are building the most dynamic maps for both veterinarians and consumers," Carpenter says. CAPC will update its website frequently so consumers can see the parasitic threats in their communities. "The maps will show that (parasites) are dynamic; they're ever changing..." For information to be relevant to the consumer, it has to be timely and local, Carpenter says.
But the organization's goal is to reinforce the message that the pet owner's veterinarian is the expert in parasite control and prevention, he says. The strategy for the new campaign, he says, is "veterinarian as hero."
"We want to emphasize the veterinarian as the most important resource in the community," Carpenter says. "We ... want to help that dialogue ...we want them (pet owners) to say, 'Wow, I need to stay in touch with my veterinarian.'"
Within five years, CAPC wants to be able to deliver real-time information on parasite prevalence.
To accomplish it, CAPC hopes to expand its current base of industry partners, which now include Banfield, IDEXX and Antech Diagnostics, to help collect the most up-to-date parasitic disease information in the market.
While CAPC's efforts might appear to be more consumer-focused, the group will continue to offer the same detailed data to veterinarians.
"We think parasites are one of the best opportunities for the profession, because they are so dynamic and there are so many people that are non-compliant," Carpenter says. "We're not trying to be a resource for consumers, but a marketing partner for the profession" to point consumers to veterinarians for information and guidance.
While parasitologists with the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) are still analyzing the newest data, a quick glance shows where parasitic diseases most prevalent.
CAPC's maps, generated from IDEXX, Banfield and Antech Diagnostics data, offer state and county views of parasitic disease reports.
A look at state data reveals that heartworm disease was most prevalent in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas in 2010.
Lyme disease was most commonly found in Massachusetts, followed by Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Roundworm cases were more evenly distributed throughout the country, with North Dakota reporting the high prevalence in 2010. South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Mississippi followed.
A full analysis of the newest parasite prevalence data is expected to be published in 2012.