You’ve probably heard this ubiquitous warning tied to mutual funds, stocks, and the like: Past performance does not predict future success. The same can be said about some aspects of veterinary medicine.

I’ve been blessed to live and work in parts of the country that have extremely low incidences of diseases that are ubiquitous in other regions. Clients would often ask me questions like, "I’ve never had my dog/cat on a flea preventive; do you think it’s safe to continue like this?" That’s when the "past performance" quote always came to mind.

Things change. We’re witnessing that here in Fort Collins right now. We used to see very little rabies here, but the skunk variant of the virus has been moving ever closer from the east. This year it has arrived with gusto. A total of ten rabid skunks (and a bat that died near a kids play area and one found inside someone’s house) have been diagnosed in my hometown since May 4. The situation is probably much worse than that. Our local newspaper reports that many people are asking whether or not the skunk population is significantly larger than it has been in the past because they are seeing so many more skunks out in the daytime. Chances are some of these animals’ abnormal behavior is caused by rabies infection as well. Dead wildlife is only tested for rabies when a potential for human, livestock, or pet exposure exists.

Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Larimer County health department is quoted as saying, "Rabid skunks can be expected anywhere along the front range of Larimer County from now on."

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), in an attempt to determine what the future holds with regards to heartworm infections, recently issued the first prediction in its forecast series. CAPC parasitologists and a mathematician used National Weather Service data, weather trends, and parasite prevalence statistics to make the following predictions for heartworm populations this year:

Southern Region: Extremely high.

  • This includes the states of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

Northeast Region: High.

  • This includes the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington D.C.

Midwest Region: High.

  • This includes Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Northwest Region: Moderate to higher than normal.

  • This includes Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

Western Region: Persistent spikes in certain areas.

  • This includes Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

Dr. Byron Blagburn, a parasitology professor at Auburn University and member of CAPC says, "It is going to be an extremely problematic challenge this year with heartworm. The slightest deviation in medication could pose significant health risks in many pets."

While nobody can predict the future, it is important to remember that just because something used to work for you in the past, like spotty protection against parasites or infectious disease, there’s no guarantee that your luck will hold as time moves forward.


Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: skunk baby in my yard by tessa trashanne / via Flickr