Monday, 27 June 2011

Maps of Dog and Cat Parasites in the US

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) website,, has posted maps of the United States showing the prevalence of dog and cat parasites based on lab results at two commercial laboratories. If you’ve ever wondered how common the common dog and cat parasites actually are, and you live in the US, these maps are enlightening. There are maps for tick borne diseases, hookworm, whipworm, Toxocara (roundworm), and heartworm.

One should take care drawing conclusions from the results. This data is not based on a survey of all dogs and cats, or even a survey of a representative sample of all dogs and cats. It is data based on lab results of dogs and cats (presumably dogs and cats with owners and homes) whose samples were submitted to two specific commercial laboratories. We can assume that submission of these samples was done for a reason, even if it was just a routine health check; we don’t know whether parasites were suspected in some or most of these animals, or what the average age of the animal was.

You can look at two presentations of the data: traditional and three-dimensional. The traditional is best if you are only interested in looking at data from one state. If you want to compare, however, I’d suggest the three-dimensional. It gives you an immediate visual comparison between neighbouring states and various regions based on percentage positive. The map for Lyme disease clearly – and unsurprisingly – shows a concentration in the northeast, while hookworm's stronghold in the southeast is equally obvious.

I wish this data included Canada, although I understand why it doesn’t. Looking at the results for the northern states may provide clues to prevalence in southern Canada (and what the heck is going on with Toxocara in North and South Dakota?), but there may be differences in veterinary care and other variables that can’t be taken into account.  I still think these maps are very interesting, even with all the unanswered questions.

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