Prevention is the Best Protocol for Canine Heartworm Disease


Veterinary clinical diagnostics

In the United States, it is estimated that people own approximately 70-to-80 million dogs as pets. Every year, about one million of these dogs test positive for heartworms.

According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm disease is caused by parasitic worms. These can grow up to a foot long and live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels associated with those organs. These worms can cause damage to other organs as well as the heart and lungs. Furthermore, heartworms can cause severe lung disease and heart failure.

While other types of pets and wild animals can be infected by these worms, dogs are considered to be a “natural host” for them, according to the American Heartworm Society. One of the primary reasons that dogs are a natural host is because if left untreated, these worms can mature, mate, and then reproduce.

It is possible, according to the American Heartworm Society, that a dog could have hundreds of worms in their body. Furthermore, the damage these worms cause can continue even after treatment and the parasites are gone.

When a puppy is less than seven months old, they can begin undergoing heartworm prevention. While prevention is the best way to address this situation, according to The American Heartworm Society, if a dog has become infected, they need treatment as soon as possible.

Even if a dog is not showing signs of illness, they may still be infected. The American Heartworm Society indicates that the more worms a dog has, the higher potential for serious disease.

The American Heartworm Society recommends that dogs have annual tests to determine if they have heartworms. This canine heartworm antigen test can be administered at their routine check-ups. Since the cost of treatment is around $1,000, having annual check-ups to test for these parasites can assist with lowering this cost.

A veterinarian will administer a canine heartworm antigen test to determine if a dog has this parasite in their system. They perform this test by obtaining a blood sample and then sending it to a clinical diagnostics laboratory or performing the test themselves with a canine heartworm antigen test kit.

When a canine heartworm antigen test is evaluated, the lab or veterinarian will be able to tell if a dog is infected. This is determined by a presence of heartworm proteins in the dog’s blood. If infected, the dog may have 30 or more worms in its system.

After the test results come in, and a dog tests positive, the standard practice is to confirm this diagnosis with a second or another type of test. This is because the treatment is both expensive and has multiple steps.

After addressing any of the dog’s current health issues, a veterinarian will begin the heartworm treatment. There are several steps to thist, and the veterinarian will confer with the dog’s owner to recommend injections, topical medications, or pills.

Every six months after treatment begins, a veterinarian will want to conduct another canine heartworm antigen test to make sure the dog is no longer infected. Once this has been determined, it is also a good practice to begin prevention protocols, which will be needed for the rest of the dog’s life.

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