If you have suspicions that your dog has heartworm disease and you take him to your veterinarian, the vet will take a detailed history of the animal to build up a complete picture. He will give an examination and canine heartworm tests and x-rays done.
Of the canine heartworm tests available, an antigen test is usually the definitive proof, one way or the other.
This comprises the testing of a blood sample for the presence of a very specific protein that is only present in blood when a female worm gives birth to the live L1 larvae or microfilaria.
The protein is passed into the dog’s blood by the female worm during the process and the antigen test can pick up this protein if more than two adult worms are present in your dog.
There is also a test which can detect the presence of these microfilaria in the dog’s bloodstream. This test is called a Knotts test.
A blood sample from your dog is specially treated so that when the blood is spun in a special machine, the sediment in the bottom of the test tube can be examined under a high-power microscope to see if larvae are present.
Once the presence of worms has been confirmed by these tests, further tests are done to evaluate the dog’s overall health and the extent of any damage that may already have been done by the infection. As mentioned in my previous article, dogs are classified according to the extent and severity of the effects of the infection from Class 1 being at the lowest risk and Class 4 being the most severely affected and this stage is often referred to as Caval Syndrome.
After the canine heartworm tests and once the classification had been determined, your veterinarian will confer with you and the best course of action to get your dog well again will be agreed upon.
The length of time this will take and what is involved in terms of heartworm treatment and cost will depend on the level of worm infestation.
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