Owner survey finds alarming attitudes towards parasite prevention


The Banfield survey found nearly 40% of dog and cat owners don't believe their pet is at risk of getting heartworm

Przemyslaw Iciak / stock.adobe.com

Przemyslaw Iciak / stock.adobe.com

In honor of National Heartworm Prevention Month, Banfield Pet Hospital has released the results from its pet owner survey, examining the publics’ attitudes towards parasite prevention. The veterinary network surveyed 1,000 dog and cat owners within the United States and analyzed pet medical records for insights into seasonal and local trends. The key findings include the following:1

  • Nearly 40% of dog and cat owners don't believe their pet is at risk of getting heartworms.
  • Nearly 30% said their pet is not on heartworm prevention.
  • 21% of pet owners don't believe the mosquitos in their state carry the parasite, despite heartworm cases being diagnosed in all 50 states.
  • 41% of surveyed pet owners said they believe heartworm is only a risk during part of the year.
  • 51% skip year-round prevention, with 18% only using heartworm prevention for their pets during spring and summer months.

These numbers can be disappointing for veterinary professionals because the rate of heartworm disease is high and trending up, even though this disease is preventable with year-round preventatives.1,2 "Research has shown rates of heartworm in pets have continued to trend upward nationwide, despite prevention being generally safer, easier and less expensive than treating an existing infection," said Alea Harrison, DVM, chief medical officer of Banfield Pet Hospital, in the company release.1

All states are at risk of heartworm. According to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), rates have continued to trend upward in both heartworm “hot spots” and in locales where heartworm cases were once rare. However, southern states should be more vigilant and cautious. The leading states for heartworm incidence continue to be those in and adjacent to the lower Mississippi Delta.2

“The states with the highest density of diagnosed heartworm cases in the latest survey were Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas,” says AHS president Jennifer Rizzo, DVM. “Meanwhile, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and the Carolinas all saw expansions of high-density areas on our incidence map.”2

Washington, Oregon, Kansas, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were all once rare for heartworm disease, however they have now had an increase in prevalence.2 This demonstrates that it is safer to maintain cautious when it comes to parasite prevention, rather than making a wrongful assumption about your state’s prevalence.

According to Banfield’s records database,1 Delaware had a 299% increase in rates of heartworm in the past five years, while Montana had a 140% increase, and Nevada had a 101% increase to make the top 3 list.

Overall, Banfield reported finding a 47% increase in felines diagnosed with heartworms in the past 5 years.1 These data reports and owner surveys show the importance for continued client education on the necessity of parasite prevention and especially education surrounding the need for year-round upkeep.


  1. New pet owner survey suggests common myths fueling significant gap in prevention of deadly parasite for US dogs and cats. News release. Banfield Pet Hospital. April 2, 2024. Accessed April 3, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-pet-owner-survey-suggests-common-myths-fueling-significant-gap-in-prevention-of-deadly-parasite-for-us-dogs-and-cats-302106113.html
  2. New American Heartworm Society Heartworm Incidence Map reveals upward trend in heartworm cases. American Heartworm Society. April 11, 2023. Accessed April 3, 2024. https://d3ft8sckhnqim2.cloudfront.net/images/HW_survey_news_release.pdf?1681234747
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