Heartworm Testing your Pet

Heartworm Disease
Heartworm transmission

 

Heartworm Disease is alive and well in Oregon. After the Hurricane Katrina event (2005) many dogs were transferred into the State of Oregon . Those that were screened through public channels (Oregon Humane Society, veterinary clinic)were treated. However, many were just brought into a friend or family’s home as goodwill until the New Orleans residents could get back on their feet.  So, we do not really know the current statistics. Our clinic had 2 dogs that tested positive at that time. All it takes is 1 positive dog and 1 mosquito and the disease can be passed on. Have your dog tested today.You need to know. It is a simple blood test and simple preventative.

If you dog becomes infected the microscopic larvae called microfilaria begin to molt from one stage to the next. Within several months they become a mature worm ranging from 8-11 inches long . While the tiny microfilaria begin in the capillaries of the bloodstream they ultimately need the spacious rooms of the heart chambers.  Here they begin the severe  damage to the heart valves which interferes with normal heart function.  The dog will begin to show signs of deterioration such as exercise intolerance, coughing, lethargy, poor hair coat, decreased appetite, belly distension and failing effects on the other organs ( kidney , liver and lung).  It may be a year after infection before these signs are noticeable to pet owners. Diagnosis is a simple screening test .  In Oregon this may not be the first test your veterinarian would choose to run because the disease is not commonly seen here. In the majority of the United States this test would more routinely be run. The good news is the disease can be treated.  The medication contains arsenic injections and and follow-up insecticide. The bad news is the treatment is difficult on the body and the dog requires rest and gentle home care. After treatment the dog would be put on common once monthly  oral preventative.

Clients often ask about Heartworm infection in cats. Testing is important and if most often included in the basic screening test for kittens. however, prevention is no commonly recommended. The infection is rare and infection generally causes minimal damage compared to the canine counterparts.