Heartworm Testing

Posted In: Feline Health & Wellness, Canine Health & Wellness, Critter Health& Wellness, Heartworm Disease

The earlier heartworm disease is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover with proper treatment. There are few, if any, early signs of heartworm disease when a dog, cat, or ferret is infected.

To administer the test, our trained veterinary staff will take a blood sample from your pet. The test detects if there is a presence of heartworm proteins in your pet’s blood. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Puppies can be started on heartworm prevention as early as their first puppy veterinary visit at eight weeks of age. Puppies six months of age and older are tested and started on heartworm prevention, since it takes at least six months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected. Based on your veterinarian’s recommendations, the puppy should be retested six months later, and tested yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.

Adult dogs who have not previously been on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention. They, too, need to be retested at six and 12 months after starting routine heartworm prevention. Then, provided they remain on schedule with subsequent does of preventative, they need to be rested annually. 

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round.

Heartworm prevention is highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication or give it late, it can leave your dog unprotected. If you don’t get your dog tested for heartworms, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs because cats are much less likely to have adult heartworms. And, because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, year-round prevention is critical.

Diagnosis of heartworm disease in ferrets can be difficult. Your veterinarian may recommend both antigen testing and diagnostic imaging such as echocardiography to demonstrate the presence of worm in the heart. Like cats, there is no approved treatment for heartworm disease in ferrets, so year-round prevention is required to protect your ferret.

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at three locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.