The threat of vector-borne disease agents transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes will continue to spread, creating a year-round menace to both pets and pet owners. That’s the prediction of the Companion Animal Parasite Council, which recently released its annual Parasite Forecasts.
One common misperception is that parasites are only active during warm weather. There are multiple species of ticks and some have longer periods of activity. For example, adult black-legged or deer ticks, which spread bacteria that cause Lyme disease and other infections, are most active during the fall and winter months. When factored with their tremendous geographic spread of activity, parasites, particularly ticks, are a year-round concern.
For 2016, CAPC predicts the following risk areas for parasite-related diseases:
- Lyme disease is a high threat again this year. Ticks that transmit the agent of Lyme disease have expanded their range and become established in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky. However, New England, which has traditionally been in the “bulls-eye of Lyme disease,” is thankfully forecasted to see below normal activity, although infection in this region still poses a major risk.
- Ehrlichiosis is already common to western Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, but these regions are expected to have even higher activity this year. Increased risk is also forecast for southern California and throughout the Southeast, especially east of the Mississippi River.
- Transmission of the agents of anaplasmosis is poised to be a problem in northern California, New York state, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia where it is forecasted to have an active year.
- Infection with heartworm, which causes a potentially fatal disease and is transmitted by mosquitoes, is expected to be above average nationwide. The forecast also predicts the hyper-endemic prevalence seen in the lower Mississippi River region will expand into eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and southern Indiana.
CAPC offers these tips for families to consider for the safety of their pets and themselves:
- Ticks and the threat of the vector-borne disease agents they transmit are no longer a “not in my backyard” issue. Jogging trails, paths and dog parks are areas of potential risk.
- There are misperceptions that cats aren’t at risk because they quickly remove ticks by grooming or because they may live indoors. That’s just not the case. A number of parasite-transmitted diseases are harmful, or even deadly to felines, and can threaten cats that spend most of their time inside.
- One mosquito bite can transmit heartworm, which can result in death if left untreated. However, heartworm disease is almost 100 percent preventable.
- Families often take their pets on vacation with them. The CAPC pet owner website, petsandparasites.org, can help identify potential risks that exist in those destination areas so pet owners can plan accordingly.
- The threat of zoonotic diseases these parasites pose goes beyond pets, so preventive measures must be available not only to safeguard dogs and cats, but the whole family.
- Always ask your veterinarian about testing and year-round parasite protection for pets.
CAPC also offers prevalence data that localizes reported parasitic disease activity at the county level. This information is available for free at the CAPC website (www.capcvet.org) or in the free CAPC App available for download at the iTunes App Store.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (www.capcvet.org) is an independent not-for-profit foundation comprised of parasitologists, veterinarians, medical, public health and other professionals that provides information for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. Formed in 2002, the CAPC works to help veterinary professionals and pet owners develop the best practices in parasite management that protect pets from parasitic infections and reduce the risk of zoonotic parasite transmission.