Banfield's Research Team Releases Latest Knowledge About Parasites and Heartworm Disease

May 05, 2010 • Portland, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore.— May 6, 2010—Banfield’s Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK) team has released new findings regarding the prevalence of internal and external parasites in both canine and feline populations. The BARK team conducts ongoing research in the field of veterinary medicine based upon the data collected from the nearly 115,000 office visits Banfield hospitals perform each week.

After an extensive review of more than 2.2 million Banfield health records obtained from canine and feline visits in 2009, BARK determined that May is the peak month for ticks and October is the peak month for fleas. 

The prevalence of fleas is the greatest of any external parasite and affects canine and feline populations during all life stages. In 2009, fleas were the most common parasite in kittens under the age of six months as well as middle-age canines (1 to 7-years-old), with a prevalence of 18.7 percent and 6 percent respectively. Overall, the most common external parasite for both geriatric canines and felines (over 7-years-old) was fleas, with a prevalence of 6 percent and 8.5 percent respectively. 

“As veterinary professionals, it’s important that we take the lead in showing Pet owners that effective flea and tick control is essential to minimizing the spread of the disease and keeping Pets, and their homes, parasite free,” said Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, MS, DACVIM, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Banfield. “Effective control and prevention of external parasites is the responsibility of both veterinarians and Pet owners. Through an established doctor-client relationship, we can better ensure compliance and proper application of preventive products.”

BARK’s research noted the prevalence of fleas and ticks vary according to geographic location, with the southeast region having the highest prevalence of fleas for dogs at 11.9 percent, and the northwest region for cats at 17.1 percent. The southeast region reported the highest prevalence of ticks affecting dogs, with Oklahoma as the leading state. The northeast had the highest prevalence of ticks affecting cats, with Massachusetts as the leading state. Alabama topped the list of states having the highest prevalence of fleas for both dogs and cats at 15.9 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively. 

Top 5 States for Canine Flea and Tick Prevalence in 2009
Flea Tick
Alabama Oklahoma
Arkansas Arkansas
South Carolina Florida
Florida Massachusetts
Oklahoma New Jersey

BARK also conducted research pertaining to a variety of internal parasites, including: heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm and whipworm. The southeast region reported the highest prevalence of the above mentioned internal parasites in 2009. The prevalence of tapeworms found in cats was 17.9 percent for this region. When compared to other states in 2009, Arizona had the highest prevalence of roundworm in dogs at 8.1 percent. In addition, roundworms were the most common internal parasite for puppies under the age of six months, with a prevalence of 12.5 percent. 

“The treatment, control and prevention of internal and external parasites and the diseases they transmit needs to remain at the forefront of veterinary medicine, especially given their zoonotic potential,” said Dr. Klausner. “Because of our approach to preventive care and our focus on client education, we believe these measures are contributing factors to the low prevalence of internal parasites found in Banfield patients. It’s very important that the profession continues a preventive care approach to veterinary medicine in order to further reduce disease transmissions among Pets and their families.” 

One of the most serious and potentially fatal parasites for canines and felines is heartworms. In 2009, BARK found that canines were more likely to be tested positive with heartworm disease in February than any other month. Nationally, Mississippi had the highest prevalence of heartworm disease for canines at 5.6 percent followed by Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. 

About Banfield, The Pet Hospital
Founded in Portland, Ore., in 1955, Banfield has become the largest Pet general veterinary practice in the world, with more than 755 hospitals in neighborhoods across the United States. More than 2,000 veterinarians at Banfield are committed to giving Pets the highest quality of veterinary care. Banfield hospitals offer a full range of comprehensive medical services, computerized medical records, preventive care plans for Pets and extended operating hours. Banfield is the only veterinary practice in the world with an extensive quality assurance program. Banfield, The Pet Hospital helps extend the lives of millions of Pets each year through our Optimum Wellness Plans. For journalists seeking more information, please visit our press room at or contact our Media Hotline at 888-355-0595 (no sales calls, please).