Akron and its surrounding communities have made the Top 10 list for metropolitan areas in the U.S. where instances of heartworm in pets is on the rise.
Summit County ranks No. 5 for the biggest growth in the number of tests for the parasite that have come back positive.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council tracks the test results from the two biggest labs in the country and found that the Akron area has seen a spike in positive results in dogs and cats in the last 30 to 45 days.
Heartworm can prove costly to treat and can be fatal for some cats and dogs.
The biggest jump in the country was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The other communities in the Top 5, in order, are Rockford, Illinois; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Anaheim, California.
What is interesting about these communities is that not only are they nowhere close to each other, they also are not in the more tropical parts of the country like the Gulf Coast, where mosquitoes are common and help spread the parasite.
Craig Prior, a veterinarian and past president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council board of directors, said heartworm can be found anywhere and it is typically spread by a mosquito that bites an infected pet.
While figuring out why there's an increase in a particular city like Akron can be nearly impossible, Prior said, there are several likely causes.
The biggest issue is the rising number of pet owners who do not treat and test their cats and dogs for the parasite.
The monthly cost for preventive medication can be as little as $6 or less, but the expense to treat a pet infected with heartworm can run upward of a $1,000, he said.
The rise in cases nationally can be attributed to the rising number of rescues coming out of the South, where mosquitoes thrive and spread the disease from one dog to another, he said.
Prior said people say "but my cat is inside all the time" or the dog is rarely out.
"Mosquitoes gather around the doors of a house waiting to get inside," he said. "We just want owners to be aware that something is going on."
Some 100,000 dogs nationally have been diagnosed with heartworm, and the number of positive cases has risen each of the last five years and is up 20 percent from 2013 levels.
“Many pet owners mistakenly think their dog or cat isn’t at risk for heartworm because they don’t live in what has been historically considered a heartworm ‘endemic’ region of the country. This is no longer the case,” said Dr. Cassan Pulaski, a CAPC board member and Merck Resident in Veterinary Parasitology, School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University. “While southern regions of the country have historically been associated with heartworm, we now know pets all over the country are potentially at risk for heartworm disease throughout the year.”
For more, visit www.capcvet.org.
Craig Webb can be reached at email@example.com.