Increasing incidence of Dirofilaria immitis in dogs in USA with focus on the southeast region 2013-2016

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Background: A recent American Heartworm Society (AHS) survey on the incidence of adult heartworm infections in dogs in the United States of America showed a 21.7% increase in the average cases per veterinary clinic from 2013 to 2016. The analysis reported here was performed to see if heartworm testing results available via the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) aligned with the AHS survey and whether changes in heartworm preventive dispensing accounts for the increased incidence. The resistance of Dirofilaria immitis to macrocyclic lactones (MLs) has been previously reported. Methods: An analysis of 7-9 million heartworm antigen tests reported annually to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) from 2013 to 2016 was conducted and compared to the 2016 AHS survey. A state-by-state analysis across the southeastern USA was also performed. National heartworm preventive dispensing data were obtained from Vetstreet LLC and analyzed. All oral, topical and injectable heartworm preventives were included in this analysis, with injectable moxidectin counting as six doses. Results: Positive antigen tests increased by 15.28% from 2013 to 2016, similar to the 21.7% increase reported by the AHS survey. Incidence in the southeastern USA increased by17.9% while the rest of USA incidence increased by 11.4%. State-by-state analysis across the southeastern USA revealed an increased positive test frequency greater than 10% in 9 of 12 states evaluated. During this time, the overall proportion of dogs receiving heartworm prophylaxis remained relatively unchanged. Approximately 2/3 of the dogs in the USA received no heartworm prevention each year. Conclusion: These CAPC data show the rate of positive heartworm tests increasing significantly (P < 0.0001) in the USA from 2013 to 2016, with a higher rate of increase in the southeastern USA than nationally. Only 1/3 of dogs in the USA were dispensed one or more doses of heartworm prevention annually by veterinarians, averaging 8.6 monthly doses/year. Veterinarians and pet owners should work together to follow CAPC and AHS guidelines to protect dogs from infection with D. immitis. Lack of preventive use and the emergence of heartworm resistance to MLs could both be impacting the increased rate of positive heartworm tests in dogs.




Drake, J., & Wiseman, S. (2018). Increasing incidence of Dirofilaria immitis in dogs in USA with focus on the southeast region 2013-2016. Parasites and Vectors, 11(1).

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