Background: Canine heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease for which treatment is financially burdensome for many pet owners. Prevention is strongly advocated by the veterinary community along with routine testing for infection during annual wellness examinations. Despite the availability of efficacious chemoprophylaxis, recent reports have suggested that the incidence of heartworm disease in domestic dogs is increasing.
Results: Using data from tests for heartworm infection in the USA from January 2012 through September 2018, a Bayesian spatio-temporal binomial regression model was used to estimate the regional and local temporal trends of heartworm infection prevalence. The area with the largest increase in regional prevalence was found in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Regional prevalence increased throughout the southeastern states and northward into Illinois and Indiana. Local (county-level) prevalence varied across the USA, with increasing prevalence occurring along most of the Atlantic coast, central United States, and western states. Clusters of decreasing prevalence were present along the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (a historically endemic area), Oklahoma and Kansas, and Florida.
Conclusions: Canine heartworm infection prevalence is increasing in much of the USA, both regionally and locally, despite veterinarian recommendations on prevention and testing. Additional steps should be taken to protect dogs, cats and ferrets. Further work is needed to identify the driving factors of the locally decreasing prevalence present along the Mississippi Alluvial plain, Florida, and other areas.
Stella W. Self 1, Cassan N. Pulaski 2, Christopher S. McMahan 1, D. Andrew Brown 1, Michael J. Yabsley 3,4 and Jenna R. Gettings 3
1 School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634, USA.
2 Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803,
3 Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
4 Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University
of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.