Most veterinarians recommend year-round heartworm prevention, yet only half of surveyed pet owners follow these recommendations, risking infection and broken hearts.

The year-round recommendation is based on these points:

• Heartworm transmission occurs throughout the year in portions of the United States.

• Mosquito presence and ability to transmit heartworm microfilariae are often unpredictable, making it impossible to pinpoint potential transmission seasons.

• More pets are traveling with their owners, often to and from heartworm-endemic areas during transmission season.

• Year-round prevention may help improve pet owner compliance and efficacy of preventatives.

Despite drought conditions last year, the mosquito population will remain a threat this year as carriers and transmitters of heartworm disease. Though down slightly from last year’s forecast, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is reminding the veterinary community to advise clients of the need for year-round heartworm protection to curb the emergence of a higher case incidence this year.

Last year’s CAPC Heartworm Prevalence Map tally totaled nearly 4.3 million dogs tested for the parasite, with approximately 48,000 testing positive (or one in 89 dogs) for heartworm. The highest incidences were reported in the Southern and Central parts of the country, with the worst stretching from Texas eastward to North Carolina. Small pockets of activity also occurred in the most Northeast and Northwestern regions as well. To see the full breakout, visit the Heartworm Prevalence Map.

The Parasite Prevalence Maps will continue to be updated frequently throughout 2013 and contain the ability to narrow results by state and even by county. Veterinarians and staff members are encouraged to visit the maps often to stay abreast of the latest information and serve as the parasite expert for their clinic and client base. CAPC also provides automatic email updates for specific parasite activity by state and county. Please Visit the “How To” Page to sign up for this convenient tool today.

CAPC bases its parasite forecasts on several factors, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, elevation, forest cover, population density and reported cases. The forecast is also the collective expert opinion of respected parasitologists who engage in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor disease transmission and changing life cycles.

Heartworm prevalence is significant in enough areas that dog and cat owners should be informed about its prevention and strongly encouraged to follow year-round prevention recommendations. There are a number of efficacious products that can meet clients’ needs. Heartworm disease can be deadly, and veterinarians must become stronger advocates for regular prevention to avoid the cost of treatment and potential heartbreak of untreated or undiagnosed disease.

Clinical signs of heartworm disease depend on the stage of the infection; but in later stages, infection with Dirofilaria immitis can cause cough, exercise intolerance, dyspnea, hepatomegaly, syncope, ascites and abnormal heart and lung sounds. CAPC recommends annual testing and year-round treatment with broad-spectrum heartworm anthelmintics that have activity against parasites of zoonotic potential. To learn more about heartworm and other vector-borne diseases, Visit CAPC’s Recommendations Section on its website.