Whether a veterinarian will require your dog to have a heartworm test before routine surgery such as spaying or neutering, depends on where you live.
In the USA, many states have a low incidence of heart worms compared to high-incidence states such as Florida. However, according to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), incidence of adult worms is increasing in all areas of the United States.
Due to the high incidence of heart worms, veterinarians include a parasite test in their protocol for pre-surgery laboratory testing.
Why Pay The Extra Cost of Heartworm Testing?
Spaying or neutering is a routine procedure that typically has few complications. However, if a dog has heart worms, any routine procedure has the potential to be life threatening or to cause serious complications. The initial screen may cost $15 to $30 and is well worth the investment to prevent putting your dog at risk for complications. Veterinarian fees vary significantly, and many people have reported fees as high as $45 for the initial test.
Regardless of the fee, heartworm testing is worth the price to ensure your dog’s spaying or neutering surgery is successful and without complications. This also applies to any routine surgery your pet might need
If your dog is on preventative heartworm medicine, it is unlikely that he or she will test positive. Even though your pet is on preventative heartworm medicine for dogs, your pet can still be infected with adult worms if you missed the treatment schedule.
Without diligent preventative treatment, it is possible for a pet to become infected. Although it is unlikely, it does happen on occasion. It is crucial for a responsible veterinarian to circumvent any potential problems before ANY surgery.
Testing Can Identify Potential Dangers During Surgery
The damage that adult worms cause is significant. The extent of the damage will depend on how long a dog has suffered with the infection. If a dog has a current infection that has not been diagnosed, even a routine surgery can be dangerous. The adult parasites attach to tissue in the heart in addition to damaging pulmonary arteries. This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body including the lungs. Since arteries are sustaining continuous damage, blood clots begin to form. Arteries become dilated and restrict normal blood flow.
The blood cells carry oxygen to all areas of the body. If the blood flow is restricted, the oxygen level within the body may decline. This can cause complications during surgery and can impede the healing process after surgery. Since your beloved pet will be under anesthesia, proper breathing, and blood flow is essential during surgery.
In areas of the country where parasites are prevalent, a heartworm blood test is important prior to any surgery. In fact, many shelters in high incidences areas test for the parasites before providing spaying or neutering for shelter animals.
Veterinarians must also protect their practice and license by taking extra precautions before conducting any surgical procedure. Imagine having to tell a pet owner his or her pet suffered serious complications during surgery due to a heart worm infection.
While many pet owners are concerned about the added cost of an additional test to detect heartworm infection prior to any elective surgery for their dog, this cost is minimal in comparison to the problems that could be caused by an undetected problem during even minor, routine surgery.