AKRON, Ohio — Pet owners beware, heartworm disease rates are on the rise and one city in Northeast Ohio has one of the highest increases in the country.
Akron was ranked No. 5 in the United States for the highest percentage increase in positive heartworm test results for dogs and cats during the month of June, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.
Heartworm disease is caused by is a blood parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes. If a dog or cat is not on a heartworm preventative medication and is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae, it has a high likelihood of developing heartworm disease.
Akron was ranked based on the number of positive heartworm test results it had over the last 30 to 45 days. The more infected pets in an area, the most likely the disease is to spread, as more mosquitoes become carriers of the larvae.
“It takes just one heartworm-infected dog in an area to become a reservoir of infection, increasing the number of infected mosquitoes and ultimately spreading the heartworm parasite to unprotected dogs and cats. This is why CAPC recommends monthly heartworm protection and annual testing for both heartworm antigens and microfilariae —regardless of where pets live or travel,” said Dr. Michael Yabsley, CAPC board member and professor at the University of Georgia.
CAPC said the increase in positive tests could be attributed to a number of factors, but the most likely, outside of failure to medicate pets monthly, are exposure from travel, transportation of shelter pets and changing weather patterns.
With the heavy rains and flooding Northeast Ohio has seen in addition to the warm weather patterns, mosquitoes are thriving in the area. Higher temperatures in humid conditions make any of the diseases the mosquitoes carry to be more transmissible as the mosquitoes become more active in their feeding, making Akron and other cities across Northeast Ohio hot-spots for the spread of heartworm disease in dogs and cats.
CAPC recommends pet owners test their furry friends once a year and make sure they are medicated with a heartworm preventative once a month.
Here’s how Akron compared to other cities across the country:
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