CAPC Prevalence Maps Are Now a Great Start for Flea Tapeworm Data

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) Prevalence Maps have been helping veterinarians stay informed for years regarding the prevalence of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Giardia, and vector-borne diseases. Now, as of the last quarter in 2023, these maps include flea tapeworm data from fecal antigen testing and provide veterinarians with a more comprehensive picture on the regional risks of parasites and vector-borne diseases.

Tapeworm Prevalence

As veterinarians, many of us have had that awkward moment when we deliver the negative results of a fecal O&P to a pet owner, and they kindly remind us they are seeing "rice-like" or "jelly-like" objects in the stool. It's often not our fault we didn't detect a positive sample because flea tapeworms rarely shed eggs, rendering the chance that tapeworm eggs will be found on a fecal ova and parasite (O&P) very slim. In fact, in a study of nearly 900 fecal submissions, only two samples (0.22%) were positive on fecal float.1

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Based on the three months since mapping this data began, the prevalence of flea tapeworm in the United States was 2.17% (roughly 1 in 50) for dogs and 4.39% (roughly 1 in 20) for cats. In general, CAPC estimates that the prevalence of flea tapeworm may range anywhere from 4% to over 60% in dogs and 1.8% to over 52% in cats, depending on the fecal testing strategy employed. A clearer picture on prevalence should emerge as more flea tapeworm data is included regularly from antigen testing. And with the increasing accessibility of this testing, CAPC now recommends utilizing both antigen and fecal O&P so veterinarians have the best chance of catching parasitic infections as early as possible.

Fecal Antigen Testing for Tapeworms

A couple of studies published earlier in 2023 underscore the importance of including flea tapeworm data in these maps. In one study, 52 samples (5.8%) from the study of nearly 900 fecal submissions were positive for the flea tapeworm using the D. caninum-specific antigen testing.1 Another recent study conducted by the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology residents, shows that 5.6% of patients tested positive (mostly shelter dogs), and 2.2% of pet dogs, when using fecal antigen testing.2

Fecal antigen testing is simply a more accurate and sensitive way to detect this organism—it can find up to 5 times more infections than fecal O&P alone.1,3 Without this additional tool as part of a comprehensive fecal testing plan, the risk of flea tapeworm infections going undiagnosed in our patients is much higher.

Comprehensive Fecal Screening as a Key Part of Preventive Care

Leveraging these user-friendly maps as visual tools can be a helpful part of communicating the need for preventive care testing. When pet owners can see the number of animals affected in their region, they may be more inclined to accept the recommendations made for comprehensive fecal testing.

Regular screening for intestinal parasites at annual and semiannual exams is important due to the sporadic shedding of eggs and various prepatent periods for the different parasites. By including fecal antigen testing, we reduce the chance that an intestinal parasite infection will go undetected. The combination of fecal O&P and antigen testing provides the broadest coverage and best chance for early detection of intestinal parasites and improves accuracy and sensitivity for a variety of parasites, including roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and flea tapeworm.

Additionally, the more conscientious veterinarians become at recommending the combination fecal tests, the more accurate and useful the information in the CAPC prevalence maps becomes. Awareness and understanding surrounding the prevalence of parasites helps us make data-driven decisions and recommendations when it comes to intestinal parasite screening and preventive measures such as regular deworming.


1. Elsemore D, Bezold T, Geng J, Hanna R, Tyrrell P, Beall M. Immunoassay for detection of Dipylidium caninum coproantigen in dogs and cats. J Vet Diagn Invest. Published online July 25, 2023. doi:10.1177/10406387231189193

2. Little S, Braff J, Duncan K, et al. Diagnosis of canine intestinal parasites: Improved detection of Dipylidium caninum infection through coproantigen testing. Veterinary Parasitology. 2023;324:110073. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2023.110073

3. Data on file at IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. Westbrook, Maine USA: Aggregate detection of hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm infections.

Nell Ostermeier

Dr. Ostermeier is an entrepreneur at heart and operates, a virtual practice providing telehealth and education for pet parents as well as consultations for veterinarians who wish to safely integrate holistic options into conventional medicine. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois in 2004 and, since that time, has worked with multiple species and performed varied roles, including associate veterinarian, relief veterinarian, and practice owner. Dr. Ostermeier is an expert in integrative medicine and veterinary acupuncture, and she has spoken at conferences around the world. As an IDEXX regional thought leader, she supports veterinarians in promoting diagnostics as the basis for best preventive care and individualized treatment plans. The views and opinions in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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