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5 Reasons to Screen Every Dog, Every Year, for Vector-Borne Diseases  

Few things in life are truly certain. Benjamin Franklin was able to pinpoint two (death and taxes), but we’ll add one more: the presence of infectious diseases in your local population of blood-sucking parasites.

For this reason (and five others outlined below), we align with the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) in recommending that every dog be tested for vector-borne diseases every year. 

1. The likelihood of vector-borne disease exposure is growing. 

Ticks and heartworms are expanding in number in geographical range. Further complicating matters, warming climate trends are giving ticks and mosquitoes more time to be active.

CAPC’s regularly updated prevalence and forecast maps for Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and heartworm are powerful education and risk assessment tools for both veterinary professionals and pet owners.

According to CAPC, 1 out of every 30 Lyme disease tests performed in the United States and Canada in 2024 have come back positive. Anaplasmosis is also pervasive in the U.S., as 1 out of every 15 dogs tested have been positive for the pathogen. 

These prevalence maps also demonstrate that, while commonly thought of as a problem limited to the South, dogs have been diagnosed with heartworm disease in all 50 states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and even Canada’s Yukon Territory. 

2. Bites and ticks are easily missed.

Ticks could teach a master class on hiding in easy-to-miss spots (e.g., under the collar, in the webbing between toes, on ear pinnae), and even the teeniest of nymphs is able to transmit these pathogens.

Keeping pets indoors can provide dog owners with a false sense of security, but ticks can easily hitch rides on pets and people during quick trips to the yard, and mosquitoes are quite happy to enter homes via doors and windows. 

3. Infections can be easy (and costly) to miss.    

Many infected dogs have no clinical signs until disease has had time to progress to an advanced state. Unfortunately, the illness is often more difficult and expensive to treat by this point. 

Former AHS President Stephen Jones, DVM, has noted that heartworm disease begins before clinical signs are evident. And by the time a dog develops advanced disease, the parasites can number in the hundreds and have been around long enough to cause significant heart, lung, blood vessel, kidney, and liver damage.   

4. Testing can alert dog owners to disease risks for themselves and their family. 

Annual dog testing can serve as a proverbial canary in a coal mine, alerting pet owners to the presence of disease-carrying ticks in their immediate environment and the need for extra caution.

5. Testing can lead to pet owner education (and better preventive care). 

If no pathogens are detected during testing, you can encourage the pet owner that their current prevention plan is working and to keep it up. But if the results are positive, it’s an opportunity to explore knowledge gaps and discuss the importance of compliance. For example, many dog owners are unaware of how skipping even a single dose of heartworm prevention puts their pet at risk or of the looming threat of resistance to preventives.

Annual screenings are only as helpful as the diagnostic tools behind them. 

Accuplex offers detection for:

  • Heartworm
  • Lyme/Borrelia burgdorferi C6 
  • Ehrlichia spp.
  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum

Experience confident, convenient canine vector-borne disease testing


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