POSTED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 6:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — With a handful of ticks, Dr. Nancy Hinkle, veterinary entomologist at the University Of Georgia has been caught off guard by so many, so early.
"This spring came very early, back in February people started sending me ticks, and I was a little surprised, quite surprised," said Hinkle.
She is not alone in that thinking.
Vets nationwide are worried the early arrival of ticks and mosquitos will cause outbreaks of pet diseases like heartworms.
Chris Carpenter and Byron Blagburn are both with the Companion Animal Parasite Council and both say the exceptionally warm winter is to blame.
"We anticipate that we'll have more mosquitos and, of course, since heartworm is moved from an infected dog to a non-infected dog by the mosquito, the mosquito plays a pivotal role" said Blagburn, a veterinary parasitologist.
The council has set up a free website, petsandparasites.org, where you can look at county-by-county monthly updates on frequency of pet diseases.
The council's forecast calls for extremely high levels of heartworm population in the south and high to moderate levels elsewhere.
Pets can get parasite prevention medication year-round.