Heartworm TestingProtecting Your Pet from Harmful Parasites

There are many harmful disease and parasites that can infect your pet, which is why it is important for them to receive regular veterinarian care. At Meridian Animal Hospital, we offer heartworm testing and prevention services. Our small animal vet will make sure your pet is properly treated or protected from this dangerous parasite. Heartworm is a parasite transmitted by mosquitos, which means animals can only be infected with heartworm by a mosquito bite. Dogs are considered the species primarily affected by heartworm disease. Cats, ferrets, and horses are other species that can be severely affected by heartworm disease. Some of the most common symptoms of heartworm disease appear at an advanced stage, such as the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Sudden Collapse

If you notice any of these symptoms after your pet performs light exercise, make sure you bring them in right away. Fortunately, there are preventatives are available to protect your pet from this harmful disease.

Transmission to Your Pet

Infective stage larva (of the parasite) penetrates the skin of the new host by passing through a bite wound created by a mosquito. The larva migrates through the layers of tissue and muscle into the abdominal and chest cavity of the host where they develop into the final larva stage. This process takes around 60 days.

From the final larva stage, the larva penetrates the veins of their host where the infestation reaches the bloodstream and the heart after 70 to 90 days. The larva grows and matures in the heart where the males and females mate to produce motile microfilaria. The microfilaria cannot be detected in the blood for approximately 6 months for dogs and 8 months for cats after a host was infected by the mosquito.

Heartworm Testing & Prevention

Testing for adult heartworms is available for both dogs and cats. A small sample of blood is needed from your pet to perform the test, which can be performed in the clinic with results available in less than 10 minutes. Pets must be tested prior to beginning a heartworm preventative to ensure adult worms are not currently present as giving preventative care to an infected patient may cause significant harm. Testing is then performed on a regular basis to ensure heartworm infection has not occurred while on preventatives. Positive test results require additional diagnostics to evaluate the severity of the heartworm disease.

A once-a-month preventative can be given to dogs and cats as directed by our veterinarians. The preventative kills the infective stage larva before they can mature into adulthood and damage the heart and lungs. If an animal is already infected, they will need further medical treatments. Since these treatment methods can involve risk to the animal’s life and extended hospitalization, you may want to discuss your pet’s situation with our veterinarian right away. For more information, contact us today at 303-790-0800.