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Heartworm Testing for Pets

Cats and dogs should be tested for heartworms annually and before new preventive medication.

The only thing your dog or cat should have room for in their heart is their owner, not heartworms! As their name suggests, heartworms are parasites that can live in your dog or cat’s heart. Routine testing is the only way to determine if these potentially harmful parasites have infected your dog or cat.

How is heartworm testing administered?

Heartworm testing involves examining a blood sample for microfilariae or protein traces. It's crucial to test dogs for heartworms annually, and puppies should be tested after 7 months of age. Prior to starting a new heartworm preventive medication, dogs should be tested. Regular testing, even when using preventives, ensures effectiveness and safety. If a dog or cat tests positive, an alternative medication will be selected. To schedule a test for your pet, please call 905-945-8631.

What are the risks of heartworms?

Dogs are more prone to them, but cats can also contract a heartworm infection. Dogs are the ideal hosts for adult heartworms. An infected mosquito bites your dog or cat, leaving heartworm eggs behind, which can later develop into adult heartworms. During the development of the parasite, they grow from not being visible to becoming large worms. Once they’ve reached adulthood, heartworms can mate and multiply inside your pet. They spread to and compromise the heart and surrounding valves. As the infection progresses, you could notice symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Wheezing

How is heartworm disease different in cats and dogs?

Canine heartworm infection can also lead to vena cava syndrome (a form of liver failure), which is a life-threatening complication. Without prompt surgical intervention, this condition usually leads to death. Cats can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD); the symptoms can be subtle and may mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, and panting, are common.

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