The 4DX test: A Quick and Easy but Powerful Screening Tool for the Health of Your Dog
The 4DX test is a quick and simple blood test that screens for four diseases which affect our dogs: Heartworm, Lyme, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia.
Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and is becoming more prevalent in Vermont as the climate warms and as more dogs (unknowingly infected) are brought into the state from the South where mosquito borne diseases are widespread. Plus, local wildlife such as foxes, coyotes and wolves may be infected, and be able to spread the disease to our dogs through the mosquito.
The mosquito spreads the disease by biting an infected animal and then biting our dog. The bite deposits microfilaria, which grow and mature into adult heartworms. Unlike intestinal parasites, heartworms actually live in the heart and bloodstream. Preventative heartworm medication does not kill adult worms, but rather the microfilaria. It takes months for the microfilaria to develop into adult worms. Thus, it is recommended that pet owners use preventive heartworm treatment for their dogs all year long.
It is important to know that a heartworm infection may not be detectable until 6 months from the initial infection, which makes routine annual screening with the 4DX test so important.
If a dog is found to test positive for heartworm, prompt treatment may be started. Without treatment, the adult worms will continue to grow and reproduce, causing damage to the heart.
Unlike heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquitoes, Lyme, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia are all types of bacterial diseases transmitted by ticks.
Lyme disease is probably the most well known tick disease in Vermont, but we also find Anaplasma and Ehrlichia here. Even if your dog is not showing any symptoms, early detection will aid in monitoring and treatment.
Symptoms of Lyme disease are often vague but may include fever, lethargy, joint pain, joint swelling, lameness and a decrease in appetite.
If Lyme is undetected and untreated, progression to kidney failure could result. Dogs may receive a vaccination for Lyme but because the vaccine is not always 100% effective, we recommend that your dog should be tested for Lyme annually with the 4DX test. The vaccination will not result in a positive Lyme result on the 4DX test.
Anaplasma is a type of bacterial disease spread by ticks. The symptoms are often similar to Lyme. Additionally, a reduction in blood platelets might occur. Because platelets assist in blood clotting, a reduction in platelets may result in abnormal bruising and bleeding.
Ehrlichia is similar to Lyme and Anaplasma. The Ehrlichia bacteria live in the white blood cells. Symptoms of infection are similar to Lyme and Anaplasma. Long term infection may also result in kidney failure.
Tick prevention is important and should be given year round. Ticks can emerge during warm days even in the winter. However, since tick prevention is not always 100% effective, all dogs should be screened annually with the 4DX.
There are many ways in which the conscientious pet owner can safeguard the health of their fury friends and learning more about tests like the 4DX is important knowledge to assist you in this goal.
Written by Andi Levesque, Veterinary Assistant