It’s not always obvious when your dog or cat is infected with heartworms. Some dogs/cats aren’t symptomatic in the early stages of their infection. Examining their feces with your naked eye also won’t help you determine a heartworm infection. Heartworm testing is the most accurate way to determine heartworms.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are parasites that can grow up to a foot long inside your dog or cat’s vital organs, including their heart, lungs and blood vessels. Cats aren’t the typical hosts for heartworms, though infections aren’t impossible. Dogs are more likely to be infected with heartworms since these parasites can complete their entire life cycle living in your dog’s body. They’re able to develop into adult heartworms and even mate to produce microfilariae (offspring). Since heartworms often go undetected in cats, they must get tested for heartworms, along with dogs.
How do they infect dogs/cats?
Heartworms are passed on through mosquito bites. A mosquito carries microfilariae eggs, infecting the next animal they bite. They stay on the surface of the skin until they can enter a dog or cat’s body, usually through a wound. It typically takes heartworms up to 6 months to develop into adults. At this point, they can be detected with a test. If you’re interested in heartworm testing, please contact us at 416-928-6761.
How do you test for heartworms?
We take blood samples to run an antigen test that will detect heartworms. For most dogs, we recommend getting a test at least once a year. Even if your dog is taking a monthly heartworm preventive, heartworm testing is essential to ensure they weren’t infected if they missed a dose or took their medication outside the recommended window of time. We highly recommend heartworm testing if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Persistent cough