Veterinary Study Shows Dramatic Increase in Deadly Parasitic Disease

TORONTO, May 3 /CNW/ - A 2010 study published by the Ontario Veterinary College's Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph, has revealed a 60 per cent increase in the number of pets in Ontario carrying the potentially fatal heartworm parasite. The last study that reported the prevalence of heartworm in Canada was conducted in 2002.

The 2010 report showed that 564 dogs tested positive for heartworm in Canada in 2010. Of those dogs, 431 were located in Ontario, a significant increase in cases compared to the last study conducted in 2002, when there were 268 reported cases in the province. Also of concern is that 80 per cent of the dogs that were diagnosed with heartworm had not been on heartworm preventive medication.

Ontario Veterinary Medical Association President, Dr. Ted Kilpatrick, believes the results of this study support the importance of preventive veterinary treatments, "In recent years there has been some skepticism about the need for veterinary preventive treatments, ironically, this is partly because these treatments have been so successful in preventing the spread of disease… but I think this study shows that prevention only works if we stick with it. Pet owners need to believe in the importance of periodic testing and regular preventive treatments in order to control the spread of disease in our pets."

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition cause by parasitic worms that live in the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs of infected animals. These worms can grow to a length of 15 to 30 centimeters, and in severe cases, can cause severe damage to internal organs. In Ontario, heartworm season runs from June to mid-October of each year, when mosquitoes are most active. Now is the time of year when pet owners need to be thinking about which preventive treatments to give their pets. Pets contract heartworm disease from mosquitoes that are infected with heartworm parasites. If an uninfected pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, immature worms are injected into the tissue and then travel to the heart, where they mature into adults and begin to reproduce.  Although heartworm disease in cats is less common and less severe, cats are also susceptible to heartworm if exposed.

Pet owners should be preparing for heartworm season now, by speaking to their veterinarian about proper testing and protection against this serious but preventable disease.

Founded in 1980, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association represents more than 4,400 Ontario veterinarians in private practice, government, academia, industry and public service. Its mandate is to advance and promote excellence in the veterinary profession in Ontario, and contribute to the betterment of animal health and the protection of human health.

For further information:

Media contact:
Melissa Carlaw, OVMA Manager of Communications & Public Relations
905.875.0756, ext 15 or mcarlaw@ovma.org 

For more information about heartworm visit: www.ovma.org