Why test my dog every year for heartworms? An update from our 2016 numbers.

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

We know that heartworm disease is a sneaky one, with one small mosquito bringing the very small heartworm microfilaria from one infected dog to another.  We owners have no idea that our dog has been infected, because it takes over 6 months for the worms to grow and signs to develop.

Inside the dog, the worms eventually look like this:


We know that mosquitoes continue to carry heartworm disease from dog-to-dog in the west central Indiana area. We know this because we see it, typically 1-2 dogs a month here in the Veedersburg clinic.  We also see the distribution numbers throughout the country, shared by the American Heartworm Society.

Check out the distribution of heartworm disease throughout the USA with the link below:


A recent count of the number of heartworm-positive dogs at our Veedersburg clinic alone in 2016 was 17!  This has been a consistent number since we started officially tracking these figures in 2007 (somewhere between 15-20 annually is typical, which translates to 1-2 cases per month).

Looking closely at the specific dogs that were positive, we see that some of the dogs were never on heartworm prevention products (such as monthly Heartgard chews, Interceptor tablets, or Proheart 6 injection), while others were.  Of these dogs that were on protection, often we see a lapse in prevention (i.e., the owner gets busy and forgets to give Bandit his heartworm tablet this month, or maybe the pill is given only seasonally spring-fall).

There is a wide range in the ages of dogs that present with the disease.  In fact, some of the heartworm-positive dogs were young (the youngest that we saw last year being one year of age).

Also, I can tell you that many of the dogs that presented are ‘house-dogs’, meaning that they spend the majority of their time inside the home.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes tend to find us when we go outside, and dogs are no exception to this.  Mosquitoes also tend to follow us inside the home and seek us out inside, too.  All it takes is one bite.

Some dogs that present are sick, and we are testing them because we are suspicious of the disease based on signs and symptoms.  I would say that anecdotally most dogs are not acting sick at all; rather, we find heartworm disease during their regular annual check-up along with vaccines.

When this test comes up positive, we know that the dog already has adult heartworms living in the vessels of the lungs and within the heart itself.  It is already time to act, and there is damage being done internally whether the dog acts like it or not.


This is what our in-clinic heartworm snap test looks like. It tests for tick diseases, too, such as Lyme.

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Litterbox Drama

By:  Dr. Jennifer Allio

Many cat owners feel their cat is “getting back at them” for some reason or another when their lovable, furry, happy kitty begins urinating on the carpet instead of the litterbox.  This causes discord in tkitty-litter-panhe home, so what used to be a happy, go-lucky relationship with the kitty becomes a stressful relationship of cleaning up after kitty all….the….time.  What could be causing this type of behavior?  The list of potential causes include; medical (urinary tract infection, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc) or behavioral.  To rule out medical causes, you should first make an appointment with your veterinarian.  For behavioral causes, you may still need to call your veterinarian if some of the following methods do not work.

First, when an accident occurs, use a cleaner with an odor neutralizer such as; Urine Away (your veterinarian may carry this product), Nature’s Miracle, or Anti-Icky Poo.  Thoroughly cleaning the area the accident was in is important in the prevention of another accident occurring in that same spot. For our pets, if it smells like a “potty place”, then it must be a “potty place”.  Keeping in mind that their noses are 40 times stronger than ours, we want to make sure our cleaners are truly neutralizing the odor, so using a good product and following the label’s instructions are a great place to start.

Second, it is time to figure out why your kitty no longer desires to use the litterbox.  It may be that he or she had a urinary tract infection, so every time he or she used the litterbox it hurt.  This can lead to litterbox aversion.  Your kitty now has a negative association with the litterbox.  This is the most common cause we see for continued urination outside the litterbox.  Other causes include; surface preference, inconsistent cleaning of the litterbox, being startled while in the litterbox or being punished after urinating outside the litterbox and then placed in the litterbox.

Some cats will stop using the litterbox for simple reasons, such as, not being cleaned frequently, not enough litterboxes, switching the type of litter, another cat in the home causing conflict, or the litterbox is too public.  This all sounds insane to us; because we provide a space in our home for them to eliminate so it should be that easy, right?  If you think about it, though, we usually have similar preferences, so it makes some sense that they want a clean, dry, quiet place to eliminate, too.

Here are some general guidelines for litterboxes:

  • Have the same number of litterboxes as you do cats +1. So, if you have 2 cats, then you have 3 litterboxes.
  • Clean the litterbox at least twice daily
  • Completely change the litter out every week, sometimes twice weekly
  • Multiple levels in a home mean a litterbox on every level with easy access for kitty.
  • Optimize the litter by trying several types in different boxes in the same location to see what your cat prefers.
  • Optimize the location by having boxes set up in several locations to see which one is used most.
  • Try to place litterboxes in quiet locations with little traffic. For example, the laundry room is not a great location, but an open closet is.
  • Try different types of litterboxes: covered, uncovered, deep, shallow, and wide or long. Some cats avoid covered litterboxes, because they don’t like to eliminate in a cave-like setting.  The covering also traps odors.
  • Some cats like liners, while others don’t.
  • Some cats may avoid automatic litterboxes for fear of the cleaning mechanism that might turn on while they are eliminating.

With all these suggestions, hopefully you and your kitty can squash the litterbox drama and regain your happy relationship together.