Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heartworm Tests

Heartworm disease is spread by infected mosquito's that bite your pet. Many people have heard of heartworm disease in dogs, but not many realize it can affect cats too. 

Heartworm tests are recommended yearly for canines at many clinics. They are performed to insure that our dogs are heartworm disease free if they are currently on a preventative, or before implementing heartworm preventation. To add to the convenience of this test many laboratories and test kits combine other tests to the heartworm test.

Heartworm tests can be performed with an in-house SNAP test. When I explain this heartworm test to a client I tell them that it is like an at home pregnancy test, except we use blood instead of urine. Specifically we need 3 drops of blood. After a few minutes the test gives us a dot or series of dots. Many veterinary clinics use a combination test, for example, at my clinic we use a 4-Dx test for Dirofilaria immitis, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Borrelia burgdorferi. In plain terms heartworm disease, two other tick born diseases, and Lyme disease. This in-house test is quick, convenient, and accurate, but it’s not perfect.

There are also heartworm tests available through outside laboratories.These too are available as single or combination tests.

No one test is perfect because heartworms can be a bit elusive. Here's wh. If there is only one worm in the heart (mind you one worm can be a big worm, and the heart is a terribly sensitive fragile delicate place to have a bug). But one worm may not be enough to turn the test positive.The test is reported to be about 90% accurate of there are more than two worms.To further complicate the scenario if there are no females in the heart then the test will come up as negative. Also there is time delay between a dog becoming infected and the test being positive. This can be up to a 6 month delay. 

The most important thing a person can do is keep their pet on monthly heartworm prevention. With monthly heartworm prevention and a negative yearly test there is a very high likelihood that that pet is truly heartworm negative. For a newly adopted pet or a pet who doesn't get the preventative routinely it is suggested to perform the heartworm test every 6 months. Two negative tests 6 months apart is generally accepted to be a negative dog.

Here are some other helpful heartworm tips;

Any pet who tests positive should have another test done to confirm the first test. 

Any pet who has been off of preventatives for longer than 3 months should be tested, and then re-tested in 6 months.

Any pet who has heart disease and clinical signs consistent with heartworm infection should be re-tested.

Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease. It is easily and affordably be prevented with a preventative. As a veterinarian I urge my clients to protect their pets from this dangerous and expensive to treat disease.

For more information on heartworm disease see The AmericanHeartworm Society.

"Trends" magazine January 2013 edition had a veryinformative article.

If your pet tests positive talk to your veterinarian about how to best confirm the test. If your pet tests negative but has any signs of heartworm disease ask how you can confirm a negative test, or run other diagnostics to check for the presence of heartworms.

For information on an in-house IDEXX SNAP test.

SNAP Heartworm Test

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