Ticks, other parasites encroaching on new territories, CAPC says


Year-round prevention continues to be strong recommendation.

In what appears to be a continuing trend, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is warning of expanding tick territories and a higher risk of vector-borne diseases to previously less-susceptible pet populations this year, urging veterinarians nationwide to recommend year-round parasite prevention for pets.

CAPC is currently finalizing its 2014 parasite forecast maps, which will be made available to veterinarians and pet owners at the onset of what is commonly considered prime season for parasites such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Using a model similar to the one meteorologists use to predict U.S. hurricanes, CAPC develops these forecasts based on factors such as temperature, precipitation and population density.

2014 parasite forecast

Here are some of the nationwide trends the organization is predicting for parasites this year:

> Ticks that spread Lyme disease are expanding their territory from the Northeastern states westward into areas of the Midwest and southward into the Mid-Atlantic states. Lyme disease will continue to be a threat in New England and the Pacific Northwest.

> The risk of ehrlichiosis will be very high from Virginia to Texas and as far west as Texas.

> Heartworm disease is also expected to be a substantial threat, with Texas, the Southeast and Pacific Coast areas from Northern California to Washington state seeing higher than normal levels of infection.

CAPC is launching a satellite media tour, scheduled for the month of April, to talk to pet owners about these issues directly. The campaign, which features Cathy Lund, DVM, president of the CAPC board of directors, and practitioner Craig Prior, BVSc, of Murphy Road Animal Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., will focus on the following points:

> Contrary to popular belief, parasites—particularly ticks—are a year-round problem.

> Ticks and the threat of diseases they carry are no longer a “not in my backyard” issue. There are multiple species of ticks with tremendous geographic reach and greater periods of activity that pose a threat.

> The zoonotic disease threat these parasites pose goes beyond pets, so preventive measures should be applied to the whole family, not just dogs and cats.

> Consult a veterinarian for the best parasite prevention plan for your pet.

Prevalence tools

CAPC also continues to update its online parasite prevalence maps, which indicate the incidence and risk of tick-borne diseases, intestinal parasites and heartworm disease, on a monthly basis. Each interactive map is broken down by species (dog and cat), if applicable, and state, allowing veterinarians to view the number of cases of a specific disease not only on a national level but also in their local area—even down to the county level. This information can then be shared with pet owners to raise awareness about the importance of parasite prevention and control.

CAPC’s ongoing emphasis—and that of most veterinarians—is that year-round preventives for pets are key. The importance of that message, however, can sometimes be hard to convey to clients. “Pet owners like to make their own assessments about what parasites need to be prevented based on what they see,” says Andrew Rollo, DVM, an associate veterinarian at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich. “If they can’t see Ehrlichia or Giardia, then their pet must not have it.” Rollo points out that this is where the parasite prevalence maps and forecasts can help clients understand the risk of what’s actually in their area.

Ernie Ward, DVM, a practitioner at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., takes advantage of the free monthly reports CAPC offers veterinarians as well. Ward uses the reports to keep parasite prevention and other parasite issues, such as zoonotic disease threats, top of mind for both his staff and his clients. “If I have a client who’s become lax about his pet’s heartworm and flea prevention, I can show him the maps and reports on a tablet in the exam room and remind him of the risk in our area,” he says.

“Clients like scientific verification,” Ward continues. “They don’t need particulars, but they like seeing that their veterinarian is showing them a report. It’s not just my recommendation—it’s backed by data.”

For more information on the 2014 parasite forecasts and guidelines for parasite prevention and control, visit capcvet.org.

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