Categories: parasitic worms

Relocation of shelter animals transports heartworm as it is not always tested

The relocation of shelter animals often by air is commonplace in America. It’s a great idea as it leads to more adoptions and the saving of lives.

Craig Prior, a Nashville-based veterinarian with the non-profit Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) makes the point that there is a shortage of shelter animals for adoption in certain parts of the country e.g. in the north, and they are transported from the south-east, he says. He also states that the animals are not always tested or treated for heartworm. The suggestion is that the prevalence of heartworm in shelter animals is higher in the south-east than in the colder north-west and the relocation of animals without testing spreads the disease.

Transportation of shelter animals from south spreads heartworm to the north

The shift to the top 10 places where the prevalence of heartworm in animals is the greatest is in part because of this relocation of shelter animals.

“A mosquito comes along and bites an infected dog, travels a mile, bites an uninfected dog and now you’ve got another heartworm-positive dog.”-Craig Prior

Dogs can be treated once infected but cat can’t, he says. Heartworm can kill dogs and cats. In cats it is almost always deadly and it only takes one worm. Sometimes dogs can have a couple of worms to hundreds of them.

The parasite lives in the animal’s tissue for 4 to 6 months and then migrates to the lungs. There are heartworm preventative treatments readily available. Prior says that it is very very easy to prevent.

CAPC tracks parasitic diseases across the USA through access to information from two major veterinary laboratories. The top 10 list for July 2019 is as follows:

  1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  2. Rockford, Illinois
  3. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  4. Anaheim, California
  5. Akron, Ohio
  6. Oakland, California
  7. Eugene, Oregon
  8. Augusta-Richmond, Georgia
  9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  10. Henderson, Nevada

Indoor cats can get heartworm disease because mosquitoes can penetrate window screens. Is therefore suggested that in areas where there is a higher prevalence preventative treatments need to be administered. I don’t know whether veterinarians in America recommend preventative heartworm treatments as a standard or whether they use their discretion.

Although, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommends year-round administration of preventative and approved drugs to prevent heartworm infection. Transmission decreases in winter but the risk is never eliminated. In areas where there is a higher prevalence of heartworm in animals, an animal can become infected when a single dose of preventative treatment is missed or delayed.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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