Testing for Heartworm Disease: Serological Testing

By May 8, 2015Pet Talk

Have you ever wondered how we test for heartworm disease? In most cases, diagnosis of heartworm disease can be made by a blood test that can be run in the veterinary hospital or by a veterinary laboratory. Ours uses only 3 drops of blood and gives results in 10 minutes. If a positive result is yielded, further diagnostic procedures are essential to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment. Depending on the case, some of the following test will be recommended.

Serological test for antigens to adult heartworms: This is a test performed on a blood sample. It is the most widely used test because it detects antigens (proteins) produced by adult heartworms. It will be positive even if the dog does not have any microfilaria in the blood. This occurs in about 20% of the cases. Dogs with less than five adult heartworms will not have enough antigen to give a positive result, so there may be an occasional false negative result in dogs with early infections. Because the detected antigen is only produced by the female heartworm, a population of only male heartworms will also give a false negative. Therefore, there must be at least five female worms present for the most common heartworm test to diagnose heartworm disease.

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