How to Check for Heartworm in Dogs

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Check for Heartworm in Dogs
Check for Heartworm in Dogs (Image: OpenPhoto.net)

Heartworm affect thousands of dogs in North America, particularly in the spring and summer seasons. Keeping an eye out for symptoms of heartworm, having your veterinarian perform heartworm tests on your dog, and feeding your pet a heartworm a preventative are vital in securing your pet's health.

Look for symptoms in your dogs that may reflect heartworm infection. These symptoms commonly include a mild cough that worsens over time, fatigue, difficult breathing, If heartworms are affecting a dog's liver, symptoms may include jaundice and loss of appetite.

Consult a veterinarian in checking your dog for heartworm, either upon noticing symptoms in your pet or simply as part of your dog's annual veterinary checkup. The Pet Center identifies three primary tests for helping check for heartworm in dogs, all of which need to be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

Ask the veterinarian to perform a heartworm antigen test on your dog, which tries to locate a protein emitted by a mature female worm. The test tries to locate the presence of microfilaria in a dog's blood sample. Part of this test is a filter test, which forced blood through a filter, thus attempting to trap microfilaria for analysis purposes. The Knotts Test, meanwhile, places a chemical in the bloodstream that breaks down blood cells, thus helping locate heartworm.

See if the veterinarian will conduct the final common test that identifies the presence of antibodies in the larval stage of the heartworm. However, this test simply confirms exposure to a dog's exposure to heartworm at some point in time, but doesn't necessarily offer proof of a current heartworm infection.

Give your dog a heartworm preventative tablet from the vet after having a heartworm test administered, as it will significantly decrease the pet's chances of becoming infected with heartworm. Most heartworm preventatives are administered monthly. Consult your local veterinarian to discuss your options for a heartworm preventative, and to secure a prescription.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always consult a veterinary expert, who can perform a proper heartworm test on your pet.
  • Be proactive in seeing a veterinarian, as heartworm, if left untreated over a long period of time, can cause death in dogs.

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