By: Dr. Hilary Slaven
Annual testing of pets for heartworm disease has been recommended in our area for 30+ years because we know that the disease is here and that it does affect dogs and their owners. (What is heartworm disease?)
Every year we keep track of the numbers of dogs that we test for heartworms. This gives us an idea of how prevalent the disease continues to be, as well as how well we are doing at educating owners about the disease and prevention options.
Thankfully, we have a test that is easily run in the clinic, while the patient is still in the building! A small sample of blood can give us a lot of information.
Last year, at our Veedersburg location we tested over 1300 dogs for heartworms, and 17 of those dogs came back positive for the disease. This means that those dogs were actively carrying the worm inside their body.
Most of those were incidental findings, meaning that we found the disease during a routine exam and blood screen. These dogs were not acting sick at home. Often this is the best time to treat (before a dog is more advanced with the illness). Most treatments, when done properly and disease is caught early, take three-six months to treat with a 90%+ rate of success. More advanced disease is much more difficult to treat, with a more guarded rate of success.
Lyme disease is also highly prevalent in our area. We have been testing and tracking the disease since 2007 at our clinic, and have seen many dogs that were feeling sick with the disease. (What is Lyme disease?)
Some dogs carry the disease without showing signs of illness. In 2016, we saw 7% of those dogs tested for Lyme show positive exposure. This means that they have been bitten by a deer tick, who transmitted the Lyme disease to the dog. Most dogs that are symptomatic for the disease respond to antibiotic therapy.
It is so handy to have a test that we can run immediately in the clinic to get a diagnosis before a patient goes home!