Importance of Heartworm & Tick Disease Testing

Importance of Heartworm & Tick Disease Testing

At your dog’s annual exam, the veterinary staff will discuss which vaccines and tests your pet should receive. One of the options we offer is the Idexx 4Dx test which screens for heartworm, Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. To help make your decision easier, here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the test.

What’s involved and how does the test work?

Just a few drops of blood are needed to run this test. It takes about 10 minutes to get results. The test detects antibodies in the patient’s blood to tick diseases. Antibodies are the immune system’s response to the presence of antigens, which are anything foreign to the body including diseases. A positive result on the test means the patient has been exposed to the tick disease, not necessarily that the patient currently has the disease. Further testing may be necessary to determine if the patient needs treatment. Each patient’s immune system is unique, meaning the amount of time the antibodies are present can vary.

For the heartworm part of the test, the antigens are what is detected. A positive result for heartworm then means the patient currently has a heartworm infection. More testing is required to determine the severity of the infection and the treatment needed.

Why run a 4dx test yearly?

Most companies that make Lyme vaccines, heartworm preventives, and flea/tick preventives have guarantees associated with their products. For example, if your pet becomes infected with Lyme disease while using their product or after being fully vaccinated, they will cover the cost of testing and treatment. There are requirements to qualify for the coverage, including proof that the patient was negative before starting the product or getting the vaccine. Also, having a negative test as a base line to compare to when a patient is ill can help determine the diagnostics needed as well as the course of treatment. For both reasons, yearly testing can be financially beneficial to clients.

My dog has already been positive, should I still test?

If your pet has tested positive for a tick disease in the past, they may continue to test positive for a period of time due to residual antibodies. That period of time varies depending on the disease and your pet’s immune response. It will be helpful to know when the patient is negative, meaning the residual antibodies are gone. The next time the patient tests positive, it will be clear that it is a new infection.

There are more specific tests that can measure the number of antigens in the patient. For example, a Lyme C6 gives you a quantitative number which determines whether the patient is fighting a current infection vs presence of residual antibodies.

Additionally, if they were positive for one disease it is still useful to test for the other three diseases. Given the high density of ticks in our area, we see patients with concurrent infections of more than one tick disease. The tick diseases also share some symptoms, so the test will determine which one the patient is fighting.  

My pet is already on heartworm or flea & tick meds, why do I need to test?

Unfortunately, no product has 100% efficacy. There is still a chance, though a very small one, that your pet could contract a tick disease while on tick preventives or heartworm disease on heartworm preventives. Also, if your pet travels with you to the southern United States, it may be exposed to a species of heartworm that is resistant to an active ingredient in some heartworm preventives. Therefore, it is best practice to test even if your pet is on year-round prevention.

If you have any questions, the staff at Northern Veterinary Clinic is here to answer them. Your pet’s annual exam is a perfect time to address any issues and concerns. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.

Office Dog Blog: Tips for Finding Your Tennis Ball in the Snow

Office Dog Blog: Tips for Finding Your Tennis Ball in the Snow

Having had some experience with this myself, I thought I might share some of my pro tips for how to find your tennis ball when it gets lost in the snow. These helpful tips can also be applied to any variety of lost toys in the winter months.


If you lose your ball in the deep snow while playing fetch, sniff around in a zig zag pattern until you find the general area where the ball went into the snowy abyss. Once found, vigorously paw at the area and push down into the snow to help dislodge the ball. It also helps to stick your nose directly into the snow and take a big sniff to make sure you are still on the right track.


When playing with your hooman, make sure you turn and run before they throw the ball, this may affect your ability to see which direction the ball even went, but it should help you get to the ball before it has actually landed. Very high-pitched whining encourages them to throw it even quicker.


Give up.


The next day, remember where your ball might have been and start your search again! Repeat step #1 for a while, if no luck, skip to step #3. Do not waste your time on this anymore and move on to more rewarding activities such as eating poopsicles or telling your hooman to throw a different ball.

Greeting a Dog

Greeting a Dog

As dog lovers, we love to meet and say “Hello” to every dog we see. However, we often unknowingly greet dogs the wrong way. We habitually set dogs up for failure with our over-excited, over-bearing, rude (in doggy etiquette) greetings. Greeting the proper way can help with most behavior issues dogs have when it comes to meeting new people or even old friends. Read on to learn how to help with jumping, excited/submissive urination, and fear or anxiety with people.


This is one of the most common, obvious, and annoying behavioral issues dogs demonstrate when it comes to greeting. One simple way to help this behavior for both owners and strangers is to ignore the excitement. Not the dog, the excited behavior. This is not meant to hurt their feelings, but to make sure it is understood they will not get attention or affection using excitement and invading our personal space. Uncontrolled excitement can also lead anxiety and frustration. We should be quiet and calm when approaching dogs that are excited. Wait until the dog has calmed down, then give affection in a calm manner, with little to no talking. Think of when two polite and well-behaved dogs meet each other. They approach and sniff each other quietly with no jumping or noise until they mutually agree to move on, socialize, or give cues to play.


Some dogs urinate when greeted. There are different causes for this including excessive excitement, fear, or submission. Fortunately, the best way to prevent this from happening is the same no matter what the cause; don’t talk to them and don’t initiate eye contact. Ignore the excitement or fear behavior until they are more comfortable. When you do approach or give attention, do it calmly to avoid sending them right back into the undesirable state. This simple step will go a long way in preventing unwanted urination when greeting.

Fear & Anxiety

A happy-go-lucky dog may jump on you. On the other hand, fearful dogs may run the opposite way, cower, bark, shut down in fear, or even show fear aggression as a response.  As much as we may want to talk to and pet them to show we mean no harm, this is often too much pressure for fearful dogs. They want time and space, and to not feel pressure to be touched. Not all fearful dogs will walk away when they don’t want to be approached. Some will shut down and freeze even if they are physically able to move away. If we approach or talk to a dog in this state they may urinate, growl, bark, or snap/bite. This is clear communication they are not ready to be touched and these signals are often ignored.

Greeting with too much exuberance causes the dog to jump up.
Greet calmly, while ignoring the dog and not making eye contact.

A greeting with a dog should feel quiet and relaxed. Humans often encourage inappropriate behavior, many times unknowingly. The goal is to promote the correct behavior and set them up to succeed. This helps dogs understand what is expected of them in any situation, whether they are meeting a dog lover or someone who is unsure about or has a fear of dogs. It is our responsibility to be in control of our own dogs. By learning a little bit about canine communication and helping other humans recognize their cues, we help promote well behaved doggy citizens.