Heartworm Prevention – Testing and Prevention
The primary purpose for a heartworm blood test remains to be the early detection of the adult worms in the dog and cat. The most common reason for the pet not being protected is, not getting the preventative medication into the pet. This is most often due to either the owner forgetting to give the medication or the pets unwillingness to take the medication. Occasionally the pet will spit the medication out without the owner knowing it. For the pets that are kept on medication all year long it is not critical when the blood test is taken.
When the heartworm larva enters the body from the bite of a mosquito, the immune system begins to produce antibodies against it. It is this foreign protein that produces the antibodies that are detected by the enzyme linked immunoassay (ELISA) blood test. The ELISA test is sensitive enough to detect as little as one adult worm and is also very specific test. This test can be performed reasonably quickly and accurately (99%) in your veterinarians office or at a commercial laboratory. In most cases you have approximately two years before significant damage is done to the heart from the adult heartworm.
Currently, the most common form of preventative medication is the monthly tablet. This type of medication is also a preventative for some of the more common intestinal parasites. These monthly preventatives come as flavored tablets that most dogs happily eat like treats.