Heartworm and Tick Disease Screening

Heartworm and tick disease screening is done yearly by taking a small blood sample from your dog. This screening test looks for Heartworm disease, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.

Heartworm disease is transmitted through infected mosquitos. Whether your dog is an avid outdoorsman or homebody who rarely goes outside, heartworm testing is necessary for all dogs. Mosquitos are small and can find a way to get into your home. An infected mosquito transmits heartworm larvae to your dog. The larvae then travel to the heart where they mature to adult worms and live in the blood vessels surrounding the heart. Once mature, female heartworms release microfilariae (immature heartworms) into the bloodstream. A mosquito then bites the infected dog and ingests the microfilariae, who then mature into larvae. If the infected mosquito bites another dog, the cycle starts again. This is how heartworm is spread. Dogs may not immediately show clinical signs. Signs of heartworm disease are related to the heart disease they develop from infection. Some heartworm prevention products can actually be dangerous for your dog if they have undiagnosed Heartworm disease. Treatment is complicated and can be expensive which is why prevention is key. There are resistant strains of heartworm coming up from the Southern United States, so testing is very important, even for pets who have been on prevention products regularly. 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the Black Legged Tick (or Deer Tick). Symptoms may include lameness, reluctance to move, swollen or painful joints, lack of energy, and increased urination. Once in the blood stream, the Lyme bacteria is carried to many parts of the body and is likely to localize in joints or kidneys. Affected dogs have been described as if they were walking on eggshells, and often have high fevers. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later. There are treatments for Lyme disease to help affected dogs feel better. Cats have been shown to be resistant to Lyme disease, even if they are bitten by a tick.

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by Brown Dog and Lone Star Ticks. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, depression, lameness, swollen or painful joints, bloody nose, and pale gums.  In the United States, Ehrlichiosis is considered endemic in the southeastern and southwestern states, though the brown dog tick is found throughout the United States and Canada. Signs of ehrlichiosis can be divided into three stages: acute (early disease), sub-clinical (no outward signs of disease), and clinicalorchronic (long-standing infection).

Anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by Deer Ticks and Brown Dog Ticks. Symptoms may include lack of energy, lameness, fever, swollen or painful joints, and loss of appetite. Dogs with anaplasmosis often have many of the same symptoms as those with Lyme disease, and infection with both agents (co-infection) is not uncommon. Both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are commonly found in the same geographic location and are transmitted by the same tick species.


Heartworm, Tick, and Flea Prevention

There are a wide range of preventive products available, and most are administered once per month either orally or topically. We will help you choose the best product for your pet based on their lifestyle and your preferences. Heartworm prevention is to be given monthly from June-November. Flea and tick season can be much longer depending on the weather.  Fleas will survive indoors and on other animals during the winter, and ticks are active if it is 4 oC or warmer outside. With the warmer winters in recent years, protecting your dog year-round from ticks and fleas is our recommendation.


Wellness blood testing

We recommend this blood testing for all dogs annually in order to identify any diseases or areas of concern before they become apparent clinically.  Identifying problems early gives us the best chance of keeping your pet healthy long term. Pets are very good at hiding pain and discomfort so by checking their blood and urine we can catch any early changes. Wellness testing includes a CBC (complete blood cell count) to look for changes in the red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets that can signify disease, a blood chemistry profile checking proteins, blood sugar, and the function of the liver and kidneys. We will also collect and evaluate a urine sample. If these tests are normal, great!  We have a baseline for subsequent years or if your pet ever becomes ill. If there are any abnormalities, we will discuss any testing or treatment that may be needed.

Senior Wellness Blood Testing

This is more comprehensive testing for older dogs, usually 8 years and older, that we recommend performing yearly. It includes everything in the Wellness blood and urine testing, and more. The blood chemistry profile is expanded to also check electrolytes and provide a more detailed assessment of the liver and kidneys. Thyroid hormone levels are also assessed, as it is relatively common in older dogs to have lower hormone levels, which can indicate an under functioning thyroid gland or other illness. These tests help us detect illness that your pet simply can’t tell you about. However, the good news is your pet can usually let you know they appreciate their improved quality of life through their increased energy and return to old habits.