Canine Heartworm Disease
Feline Heartworm Disease

Heartworm and Intestinal Parasite Testing

Normally you can tell that something is up with your pet when they just don’t seem to be acting like their normal self. Perhaps they aren’t as interested in their favorite activities, perhaps they don’t have quite the same appetite as usual, or perhaps they just don’t seem as energetic as normal. Unfortunately, without any obvious objective symptoms, it can be very hard for pet owners to tell the difference between a pet who is sulking because he was left home alone all day long and a pet who is uncomfortable because their tummy hurts.

Even where a pet owner is certain that their pet is physically uncomfortable, they often feel at a loss about whether or not their symptoms warrant a trip to the vet’s office. After all, no pet owner wants to take their pet to the veterinarian for all the “little things” that would normally clear up on their own (especially since this becomes rather costly), but they also don’t want to fail to take their pet to the veterinarian for apparently little things that are indicative of more major issues. Heartworms and intestinal parasites are a good example of this latter point–their symptoms can seem mild at first (loss of appetite and decreased energy), but a few days of these symptoms could indicate a dangerously serious or even life-threatening issue. Thus the need for heartworm and intestinal parasite testing and prevention.

The Dangers of Intestinal Parasites and Worms

Many common parasites, like fleas, are easy to detect due to the fact that they create such intense external itching that the pet is constantly scratching. Further visual inspection by the owner can confirm that the pet is infested with fleas. Intestinal parasites, also known as intestinal worms, are unlike many common parasites in that they are extremely difficult to detect until they have created a rather serious health issue for the host. The most common intestinal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms, and unfortunately the primary way you may be alerted to their presence is when they exit your dog’s body. By this stage, their infestation has hit dangerous levels. As they reside in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and multiply quickly, they can block up your pet’s system and cause issues.

Heartworms are also internal parasites, though these ones live in the host’s heart, lungs and associated blood vessels. Like intestinal parasites, heartworms multiply quickly, and since they reside in critical organs in the pet’s body they can restrict blood flow and cause permanent damage, as well as serious heart and lung problems that are often life-threatening.

The longer internal parasites are left undetected, the more dangerous they become. Unfortunately, pets don’t often have extremely obvious symptoms of internal parasite infestations until their condition is very advanced and serious. Some of the more notable symptoms of internal parasites include difficulty breathing, fatigue, lack of interest and energy, weight loss, coughing and a rough coat. If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is critical to get them to your veterinarian as soon as possible for testing.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until your pet is in the advanced stages of heartworm disease prior to taking action. Your veterinarian can detect the presence of internal parasites even as they just begin to develop, allowing for more rapid and effective treatment earlier in the process.

Prevention Through Testing

Due to the dangers of intestinal parasites and heartworms and the fact that pets can contract them at any time through coming into contact with infected stool, ingesting anything (including grass) with eggs or larvae on them or being bitten by an infected mosquito, your veterinarian will recommend that your pet receive annual testing and monthly preventative medication.

In order to test for intestinal parasites, your veterinarian will need a stool sample from your pet. In order to test for heartworms, your veterinarian will need a small blood sample from your pet. Normally, the testing takes no longer than fifteen minutes and produces immediate results. In the case that either or both tests come back positive, your veterinarian will recommend an aggressive treatment plan. In the case that both tests come back negative, your veterinarian will prescribe an anti-heartworm and intestinal parasite medication that you administer to your pet every month to protect them against possible infestation.

For more information about heartworm and intestinal parasite testing, or to schedule your pet for testing, contact us today.