Dog Heartworm Test
Heartworm disease is present throughout North America and is not just a disease that affects dogs who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Heartworm can affect any dog of any age and size from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane – it only takes one infected mosquito to transmit the disease!! Prevention is the best way to protect your dog from heartworm – help your dog remain heartworm free. Ask us how we can work together to keep this disease under control and reduce the risk for your canine companion.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
For dogs affected by heartworm, there are initially no clinical signs seen, and they can act completely normal. As the heartworm progresses, respiratory signs (coughing, having trouble breathing, tiring more quickly after exercise) are the most common to see. Nosebleeds can occur, and if the disease progresses, the affected dog can develop heart failure.
How do dogs get heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasite that is passed through mosquitoes when the weather is consistently over 14°C. A mosquito bites an infected dog and passes a baby (larva) heartworm to the next dog that they bite. These baby heartworms can grow into adult worms, which live in the heart and the arteries around the heart. The adult heartworms can reproduce, and continue increasing the number of worms in the affected animal.
How do we diagnose heartworm disease?
Heartworm is typically identified with a blood test, which tests for the presence of any adult heartworm in the bloodstream. Since it takes about 6 months for baby heartworm to develop into adult heartworm, we do this blood test 6 months after the last possible exposure to heartworm in the season. In London, our last possible heartworm exposure is typically in October, so we test the following spring (April or May), as this is 6 months after the last exposure from the year before.
What are the treatment options for heartworm disease?
Prevention options are available from all veterinary clinics. These are given once a month for the heartworm season, and work to kill off any baby heartworm before they develop into adult heartworm. They are available in tablets or chews taken by mouth, or liquids applied to the skin at the base of the neck. For London, our prevention is given from June-November. Each treatment works to kill off any heartworm exposure from the month before (so we are protecting from May-October) as this is the season that can have weather over 14°C consistently. If our clients are traveling to Florida or other southern locations in the winter, heartworm prevention is recommended year round, as their warmer weather permits heartworm to be passed all year. If heartworm progresses from the baby heartworm stage into an adult heartworm infection, this can be treated. It involves a 12-month protocol of medications and strict rest to clear the adult heartworm from the body. Unfortunately, even with treatment, it will not be able to undo any damage created to the heart and lungs from the adult heartworm- which is why prevention options are preferred.