Robins, tulips, and… parasites. Ah, the first signs of spring!
When temperatures become milder, hungry parasites emerge from their dormant states. Around this time, your veterinarian will likely emphasize the importance of coming in for your furry family member’s annual parasite prevention and heartworm test. But what is that “heartworm test” exactly, and why is it so important?
WHAT IS A HEARTWORM TEST?
More accurately called a “parasite screening test”, this test also typically screens for common tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Lyme, and Anaplasmosis. A drop of your dog’s blood is placed on a test strip, which will indicate if they have antigen to heartworm disease or antibodies to one of the tick-borne diseases.
WHAT ARE THOSE DISEASES?
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes. These parasites live in and around the heart, causing heart failure and damage to other organs. Lyme disease symptoms include lameness and pain in the joints, while Ehrlichiosis includes fever, weight loss, and respiratory distress. Anaplasmosis involves joint pain, fever, and lethargy.
WHY IS TESTING IMPORTANT?
Annual testing for parasite-borne diseases allows early diagnosis and treatment before symptoms become severe, and a positive test result would affect your pet’s prevention and treatment plan. It is recommended in the spring because it must be performed a minimum of five months after the last possible mosquito bite.
IS AN EXAM AND BLOOD TEST MANDATORY?
As with any prescription, your pet must have had an exam recently enough for the doctor to be familiar with their health. Some parasite preventatives are not recommended for heartworm-positive pets, so in those cases, a parasite screening test may also be required. Your veterinarian will use their discretion to determine the safest way to proceed, based on product requirements, your dog’s age, and medical history.
WHAT ABOUT CATS?
Cats should still be on parasite prevention for their wellbeing as well as their families’. However, they are significantly less likely to contract heartworm or tick-borne diseases themselves, therefore, they typically do not undergo parasite screening.
As with many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By preventing, testing, and treating the diseases carried by mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and internal parasites, we can prevent illness and discomfort for our furry family members while protecting our families and our communities too.
Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.