Nov 15 2010

THE HEARTWORM TEST VS. THE 4DX: IS IT WORTH THE EXTRA CHARGE?

When I graduated veterinary school, almost 20 years ago, veterinarians used to take blood samples from dogs and screen them under a microscope for microfilaria — the baby stage of a blood parasite, called heartworm. The heartworm lives in blood vessels and it is transmitted via mosquitoes.

Later on, a special test that detected small particles from the microfilaria was developed. It was called the Elisa Test and it was, by far, more sensitive in detecting the disease. Over the last several years, the compounded 4dx test (four different diagnoses) was developed. It combined the annual heartworm screen with three different tick-transmitted diseases (Lyme, Anapalsmosis and Ehrlichiosis) thereby raising our ability, with only one blood sample at a very efficient cost, to detect more common diseases early on. With today’s economy, I am often asked if it is worth spending the extra money (usually about $15-$20) on a 4dx test as opposed to the heartworm test. This question is even more prevalent when clients tell me, “my dog looks healthy” and “I don’t see any ticks on my dog.” But dogs may carry Lyme disease, for example, for a few months before they become symptomatic and sick from it. Moreover, deer ticks are tiny, and it makes it very difficult to detect them. The 4dx screen, therefore, is beneficial for two main reasons:

1. The test provides for an early detection of any tick-transmitted diseases, permitting treatment before the patient gets very sick, or before it is too late.

2. If a patient is positive for a tick-transmitted disease, better tick-control must be exercised, not only to protect the dog, but the family members as well.

The benefit to you and your family is with the 4dx screen – it is worth the extra dollars and it may actually save a lot in medical bills later on, not to mention a healthier pet.

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