Mild Winters to Blame for Active Parasitic Infection Forecast

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) annual report forecasts an unusually high prevalence of heartworm due to a warmer winter.

This year, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is forecasting record heartworm cases, mainly because the warmer winter temperatures and increased precipitation most of the United States had will lead to an increased mosquito population across the country. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm, and heartworm can be deadly to pets.

The CAPC was formed in 2002 as a non-profit organization that includes veterinarians, parasitologists, and health professionals, and works to provide information about parasites that threaten the health of pets and people.

Related: Spot on or Collar: What’s the Right Flea & Tick Treatment for Your Pet?

Additionally, the CAPC also forecasts Lyme disease spread in areas not typically prevalent in. This includes the states of North and South Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Lyme in pets and people can be dangerous, with life-long impact, especially if not detected and treated early on.

According to Dr. Dwight Bowman, Professor of Parasitology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and CAPC board member, the prevalence of diseases in certain areas has significantly shifted, and the prevalence maps created by CAPC’s forecasts will be important tools to help veterinarians and pet owners alike.

Based on their forecast, CAPC recommends annual testing for these diseases, as well as pets being on preventative year-round tick control to prevent infection. They say that Lyme is a high threat this year, with the disease moving further in range from New York to Western Wisconsin. Western Pennsylvania also can expect more Lyme, while the Atlantic coast may have less infection, but only slightly less.

Heartworm is potentially fatal, and is expected to show in above average numbers nationwide, with the exception of Western Texas seeing below normal prevalence. Heartworm is not usually seen in Rockies or west thereof, but the council predicts there may be unusual heartworm infections this year in pets, and warn veterinarians to look for symptoms.

Related: Understanding Lyme Disease Symptoms in Dogs

Anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease, is forecasted for Northern California and Southern Oregon, and New York and Pennsylvania are predicted to see lots of cases. Minnesota and Wisconsin are traditionally high-activity places for anaplasmosis, but the council predicts those areas will actually be below normal in prevalence this year.

The council also forecasts a very busy year for Oklahoma, Ohio, Southern Virginia and North Carolina with regard to ehrlichiosis. Dr. Bowman says that Ehrlichiosis is a wild card for prediction as the disease can span 200 miles and show signs of epidemic or be nonexistent within that range.

The council recommends discussing prevention with your veterinarian as some illnesses have vaccines (lyme, for example), while others do not, but have preventative medicines that can be taken.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis