As most dog owners are aware, veterinarians in Ontario recommend regular testing of dogs for exposure to Heartworm, a blood parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. With routine blood testing and the use of monthly medications to prevent Heartworm transmission during the mosquito season, veterinarians (along with caring dog owners of course!) have managed to control the number of dogs in Ontario affected by this life-threatening parasite. However, despite everyone’s efforts, the number of dogs diagnosed with Heartworm Disease does increase in this province every year. The number of dogs affected by this parasite in parts of the United States is staggering, and we are hoping that our cold weather and continued control efforts will protect our local dogs. Our clients will soon be receiving a reminder that it is time to visit us for their dog’s annual screening test and to decide on the best preventive medication for the summer.
This spring, our doctors have made the decision to change Eglinton Vet’s “heartworm” blood testing protocol. Due to the ever increasing incidence of tick-borne diseases in Ontario (specifically Lyme Disease), we feel that it is in the best interest of our patients to also monitor for diseases transmitted by ticks. Just as other progressive small animal practices have done, we are shifting to testing all dogs in 2012 with a test called the 4DX test. This test will check dogs for exposure to the Heartworm parasite as well as exposure to Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Erlichiosis (all diseases transmitted through ticks).
In fact, our veterinary practice was involved in a project in 2011 which allowed us to run the 4Dx test on all blood samples taken for screening of Heartworm disease (at no extra charge to our clients). Our doctors were surprised by the results, finding that a number of dogs in the practice had been exposed to the organism that causes Lyme Disease. Some of these dogs underwent treatment with antibiotics, and others were vaccinated against Lyme Disease or had tick-prevention programs instituted. We feel that we have helped all of these dogs and also their families, by making them aware of exposure to the ticks that cause Lyme Disease.
While most dogs will not be showing clinical signs of concern when positive for exposure to tick-borne diseases, it is important that our clients be aware of their pet’s exposure and watch for signs of illness. If a dog is found to have a positive 4Dx test, there may be additional testing we will recommend to check that there are no significant associated health issues, such as kidney problems or blood cell disorders.
Our findings in 2011 have meant that we don’t feel right about not testing all dogs with the 4Dx test this year! We want to be able to: (1) detect a dog’s exposure to tick-transmitted diseases early on, allowing for treatment before our patient gets ill, and (2) institute better tick-control in those cases where the 4Dx test is positive. We want to not only to protect the dog, but their family members as well.
The good news for our canine friends is that there is no change in what they need to do when they visit us! Our vet will examine them, our gentle and experienced technicians will take a small blood sample, and we will send them out the door with appropriate preventive medications for the summer. We know that the 4Dx test will not stop those wagging tails, and hope that our clients will support us in this effort to understand and control the transmission of Lyme Disease where possible. Please give us a call if you have any questions about the new 4Dx blood test.