Our records show your pet is due for a heartworm test. Heartworm testing of your pet is easy and almost painless; it involves acquiring a small sample of blood (3 drops!). The blood sample is then processed in the Windmill Animal Hospital laboratory, using state-of-the-art testing equipment.
The doctors of Windmill Animal Hospital recommend all dogs over 6 months of age to be heartworm tested annually, using the combination 4DX+ test kit. This kit tests your dog not only for heartworms, but also tests for Lyme Disease, 2 species of Anaplasmosis and two species of Ehrlichia (4 tick-borne disease causing life-threatening fevers and anemia, that are also contagious to humans). Ticks are a HUGE problem in Abilene and the Big Country, so making sure our beloved canine friends aren't infected with a tick-borne disease is critically important. In addition, a dog infected with Lyme disease can act as a reservoir, increasing the risk of exposure to the disease for humans around him.
A more economical option than the 4DX+ heartworm test is the occult heartworm test. It tests ONLY for heartworms, so costs less than the combination test, but is just as accurate in detecting the presence of heartworms.
The heartworm direct/difil test is performed for dogs who haven't been maintained properly on heartworm prevention. It involves examining a fresh blood smear under the microscope for heartworm larvae; these larvae are called microfilaria, and look like little transparent snakes streaming through your dog's blood!
Dog owners who, very responsibly, keep their pets on faithful heartworm prevention always wonder why their dogs need to be annually tested for heartworms. All heartworm preventatives are prescription medications for a very good reason: they cannot be 100% effective, due to the fact that NO medication is 100% effective, and any dog given heartworm preventative who has heartworms can have a fatal drug reaction between the heartworm preventative and the heartworms. The American Heartworm Association recommends EVERY dog, whether on heartworm preventative or not, be tested for heartworms annually. In addition, the manufacturers of the heartworm preventatives require any dog, 6 months of age or older, be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention, and annually thereafter.
Cat owners are always curious as to why we recommend annual heartworm testing for their kitties. Although cats are not the definitive host for heartworms, they still are at a considerable risk for infection. Mosquitoes don't distinguish between hosts--they bite whoever is available! Indoor-only cats account for 1/3 of all documented cases. Heartworm disease in cats is very different than in dogs; coughing and breathing problems are common, but so are but weight loss and vomiting. However, one of the most common symptoms is sudden, unexplained death of the cat. Heartworm disease in cats is NOT curable, but it is manageable--if we know about it. Heartworms can live in a cat for up to two years; if we manage the cat's heartworm disease, he/she can outlive the heartworms. For that reason, all cats in Texas should be on monthly heartworm prevention.