Positive Heartworm Test

A simple test for heartworm in dogs is a Heska test strip.  A sample of blood is taken from the dog, and three drops of the blood are placed in the well on the test strip.  In about five minutes, the blue control line will show.  If blue is the only color showing, this is negative and this is always good.  If a red line shows in addition to the blue, the dog is heartworm positive.  A strong red line means a strong positive. 

Marsha the mom is positive

You might remember Marsha, the mother of the 10 puppies that Richard rescued.  Stray dogs of at least 1 year will generally be heartworm positive. 


Last month Sugar and I went to Richard’s to give his dogs their monthly meds for flea control and heartworm prevention.  He had scooped up a couple of older stray pups, and there were eight dogs milling around.  We put a combination flea & heartworm topical on everyone.  Four days later, Richard reported that Marsha was lethargic and coughing.  Then I realized what we had done.

I’ll repeat that I am not a vet.  If a dog tests positive for heartworm, the vet generally recommends a procedure, costing hundreds of dollars, that involves several shots of immiticide spaced out over several months to kill the worms.  The procedure can also kill the dog.  Most people don’t have several hundred dollars to spend on the dog, and might choose to do nothing.  There’s another procedure that you probably can’t get a vet to recommend, because it’s a cheaper fix.  There’s a monthly regimen of heartworm prevention, either a liquid, a chew, or a tablet, and it must be done regularly every month.  It kills the young worms.  The older worms residing in the heart die of old age.  It could take two years or more to achieve a heartworm-free dog.  We successfully treated Richard’s dogs, who were heartworm positive in 2006, and now they are not. 

We realized that Marsha had never seen a vet, and she was most likely heartworm positive, and that she was having a reaction to the heartworms dying from the medication that we gave her.  The soft cough was a symptom of the  heartworms passing from the heart into the lungs, which of course created the lethargy.  The week following the first heartworm prevention application found her back to normal. 

I am not a vet.


2 Responses to “Positive Heartworm Test”

  1. denoriot Says:

    So nice of you to share some suggestions for those who cannot afford to take their animals to the vet, yet want to care for them properly.


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