Reported heartworm cases on rise along Gulf, East Coast, AHS survey reports

Reported heartworm cases on rise along Gulf, East Coast, AHS survey reports

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Mar 16, 2009
National Report -- The numbers of heartworm cases continue to climb in parts of the United States, according to a new incidence survey just released from the American Heartworm Society (AHS).

American Heartworm Society

The large-scale survey sought to document numbers of positive heartworm cases in the country for 2007. Clinics reporting positive cases did so at increased levels from a similar survey in 2004, AHS reports.

The triennial survey was distributed to more than 40,000 veterinarians last fall. Ultimately, veterinary practices from some 2,200 counties were represented, including Banfield's network of some 715 hospitals and data from IDEXX Laboratories, reports Dr. Doug Carithers, vice president of the American Heartworm Society and director of Market Support Trials and Publications at Merial.

"Our goal is to make heartworm go away," adds AHS president Dr. Sheldon B. Rubin. "The only way it is going to go away is to increase the compliance of clients using prevention.

"We want veterinarians to put this on the top of the list of things that are important," Rubin adds. "There is no reason a dog should have heartworm disease today. If we can get more animals on prevention, we will get the numbers of heartworm-infected animals down. It is a serious problem."

According to the most recent results, the number of positive cases rose per clinic in 31 states. The reasons likely are multifactorial, including increased heartworm testing, increased client base per clinic or even climate trends.

"The clinics reporting heartworm are reporting larger numbers of cases than they used to. But we feel (that) wherever there is a reservoir for heartworm, there is going to be a heartworm problem," Rubin says.

The results send an alarm to veterinarians and pet owners about the dangers this parasite poses to dogs and cats, especially along the Gulf Coast states and along the eastern seaboard.

The message, Rubin says, is that the disease is on the move, and wiping it out is going to take greater vigilance on the part of pet owners and veterinarians.

Release of the survey results pre-empts an educational push during April Heartworm Awareness Month by AHS and Merial.

"The veterinary profession needs to do more in order to reduce the number of heartworm cases. If you are trying to reduce the rate of anything, you have to have awareness and education. That is where AHS can help out the profession," Carithers says.

The survey received broad industry sponsorship from Bayer, Fort Dodge, IDEXX, Intervet/Schering Plough, Lilly, Merial, Novartis, Pfizer and Virbac.

Listen to an audio interview with Dr. Sheldon B. Rubin: