WASHINGTON (NBC) - Veterinarians and other pet experts are worried the mild winter will present serious problems for dogs and cats this spring and summer.
"This spring came very early, back in February people started sending me ticks, and I was a little surprised, quite surprised," says University of Georgia veterinary entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle.
She isn't the only one.
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 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," Blagburn says.
The council has set up a free website, Pets&Parasites.org, where you can look at county-by-county monthly updates on frequency of pet diseases.
"For you to see just how prevalent it is and it's not just limited to heartworm, we'll give you updates on tick diseases and other parasitic diseases that are prevalent throughout the country," Carpenter explains.
The council's forecast calls for extremely high levels of heartworm population in the South, with high to moderate levels elsewhere.
They advise that pets get parasite prevention medication year-round.