Understanding Heartworm Test Results

As a pet owner it is devastating to find out your dog is infected with heartworms. This article sets out to help you understand heartworm test results and also to explain why some dogs still test positive after undergoing treatment. If this is a worry for you, please read on as understanding the mechanics of heart worm testing will help you understand why this may sometimes happen.

With any type of laboratory testing, certain conditions may exist that will cause laboratory tests to fail. In many cases, test results can indicate a false positive or false negative result.

This is true for human and animal laboratory testing. However, these false results are rare. False results typically occur due to human error in testing such as improperly following manufacturer guidelines, or the specimen is contaminated.

Veterinarians follow strict protocols for testing. In fact, most veterinarians will request an X-ray if a dog tests positive as this helps confirm initial test results.

Currently, the most accurate heartworm test for dogs is the antigen test. The test will detect the presence of specific antigens of the adult female worms. Most of these tests will detect the antigens of female worms that are at least seven or eight months old. If the worms are less than five or six months old, the antigen test may indicate a negative result. In addition, if the dog is infected with larvae (baby heart worms); the antigen test may be negative. However, as the worms mature, your dog may test positive in the future. If you would like to read more about antigen testing, use the link to visit an article on the American Heartworm Society web site.

microfilaria in blood

microfilaria (heartworm larva) in blood sample

Many veterinarians use a pre-screening test to detect larvae in the dog’s blood. The dog’s blood is smeared on a glass slide and viewed under a microscope. Your dog may test positive for larvae but the antigen test may be negative. Larvae may be detected in the blood, however due to the life cycle of the worms, they may not be mature enough for the test to be able to detect the antigens. If your dog is positive for larvae, your veterinarian will recommend re-testing in six or seven months. At this point, the adult worms will be mature enough to be detected by the antigen test. If at this time the dog tests positive, your veterinarian will probably request an X-ray to confirm the infection. Once confirmed, your veterinarian will determine if your pet is a candidate for heart worm treatment.

My Dog’s Heartworm Test is Still Positive After Treatment!

heartworm test for dogsOnce your pet has undergone treatment, another antigen test will be performed. It is possible the test will be positive. However, this does not mean the treatment was unsuccessful. The current Immiticide treatment for heartworms has a high success rate.

The problem with the antigen test is it does not determine whether live adult worms are still present. It can only detect the antigens and these may be present in the blood stream for 9 to 12 months after treatment. Continue reading

Top 5 Myths About Heartworm In Dogs and Cats

Heartworm in dogs and cats continues to be a growing concern in the United States.

Unfortunately, many pet owners have misconceptions about the disease.

The FDA and the American Heartworm Society (AHS) are stepping up efforts to educate the public about the dangers of heart worm infection.

Unfortunately, a lot of the information circulating on the Internet is based on myths instead of the facts.

The top five common myths about heartworm in dogs and cats

Myth # 1: Only certain states have a heartworm problem

AHS tracks infections in all 50 states. It is true that some states have a smaller rate of infection. However, all 50 states have numerous cases of infected dogs, cats and other animals. The AHS and FDA both recommend preventatives to keep your dog safe from infection.

Myth # 2: Heartworm preventative treatment is only necessary during the summer months

heartworm in dogsIn the United States, heartworms have spread to all 50 states. Due to climate changes, mosquitoes have spread to areas where they normally were not an issue. Today, the AHS recommends year-round preventative treatment in all areas in the United States including regions with cold winter months. Mosquito control is an issue in most states. Due to recent budget cut backs, many states have reduced efforts to control the mosquito population. This may lead to an increase in the numbers of mosquitoes, which in turn may increase the incidence of infections in unprotected pets.

Many veterinarians may still recommend treating your pet for at least six months of the year depending on the area. However, due to recommendations by the AHS, many veterinarians may change their recommendations as infections become more prevalent.

Myth # 3: Dogs infected with heart worms should be isolated to prevent spreading the disease

Heart worm larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes. If a dog is infected, the dog cannot transmit the worms to humans or other animals. Even though humans can be infected with larvae, the human body is not a viable host. The only time a dog would need to be isolated is when the dog is undergoing treatment. The procedure is painful and causes discomfort. The dog should be kept away from children and other pets to keep the dog from engaging in physical activity. In addition, the discomfort and distress of the treatment may cause the dog to become irritable and he could bite or snap at other pets and children in the household.

Myth # 4: Only dogs are susceptible to heartworm infections

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The Dangers of Aspirin and Heartworm Treatment

in a crate after heartworm treatment

You want to do all you can to help your dog but giving aspirin to relieve pain could be a bad idea

Many pet owners believe giving their pet aspirin will help to ease the discomfort after treatment for infection with Heartworms. This is a natural response of any owner, to try to help their dog when he is in pain. However there are dangers associated with Aspirin and Heartworm Treatment. Find out why you should not give your pet aspirin UNLESS your veterinarian advises it is acceptable.

The standard protocol of heartworm treatment for dogs infected with adult worms is to prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication (we are not talking here about heartworm preventatives). Anti inflammatory drugs are given to relieve the pain and joint inflammation associated with Immiticide treatment.

Adverse reactions of Aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and Prednisone

aspirin and heartworm treatmentAspirin can help minimize blood clots when a pet is treated for heartworms. In some cases, veterinarians may recommend aspirin. However, if you give your pet aspirin without checking with your pet’s doctor, you may cause harm to your beloved furry family member.

Aspirin is known to react with other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and Prednisone. Both drugs may be used in pre-treatment in the heartworm treatment protocol.

Prednisone is a corticosteroid that effectively relieves joint pain and inflammation. Many veterinarians will give a prescribed dose of prednisone during the treatment process of heartworms. Unfortunately, many pet owners do not know that aspirin reacts adversely with prednisone. Aspirin can reduce the effectiveness of prednisone, or it can amplify the side effects of prednisone. The combination of both drugs in the body can cause an allergic reaction in many pets. If your pet is suffering with pain after treatment, you should speak with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe to give your pet a dose of aspirin. The veterinarian will determine if enough time has passed between the administration of prednisone and the dose of aspirin.

Some veterinarians will pre-treat with NSAIDs instead of prednisone. Aspirin is a unique NSAID as it is the only one that can reduce blood clotting over a long period. Other NSAIDs can reduce clots, but only briefly. Even in humans, great care must be taken if aspirin is prescribed in combination with another NSAID. It is common to prescribe a combination of NSAIDs to treat arthritis pain in humans. However, the doses must be exact in order to avoid complications. For animals, it is just as important to provide an appropriate dose. It is imperative you follow instructions and give the exact dose that is recommended. Continue reading

Canine Parvovirus, Your Questions Answered

Most of us have heard of Canine Parvovirus. However, few people could tell you exactly what it is, what are the symptoms, the treatment and the implications for a dog. This article sets out to answer those questions.

What Is Canine Parvovirus or Parvo?

The Parvovirus CPV2 was discovered in 1978. Since then it has spread around the world. However, the United States has one of the highest rates of incidence.

This may be due to the rise of puppy mills throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Many breeders in the United States did not provide the proper vaccinations for their breeding dogs or puppies.

The battle to contain this highly contagious virus continues in the United States.

Can Parvovirus Be Spread From Dogs To Cats?

While the canine parvovirus is similar to feline panleukopenia, which is also caused by a parvovirus, the virus is not transmitted from cats to dogs or dogs to cats. It is believed the canine virus may be a mutation of the feline one. It is important to mention neither of the viruses is transmitted to humans although a type of parvovirus (B19) is responsible for Fifth disease in humans. The illness is one of the top five diseases that afflict children. B19 can also cause serious damage to the fetus if the expecting mother has a parvo infection.

Parvovirus in Puppies

MurphyCPV2 is usually fatal for puppies. However, if the infection is discovered in the early stages a puppy can survive under the care of a veterinarian. Adult dogs can be infected although they may never show signs or symptoms. The mortality rate in adult dogs is not significant when compared to the mortality rate of puppies. The virus is spread by direct or indirect contact with canine feces. The CPV2 virus may present in two different forms, intestinal or cardiac.
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