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Insect-borne Pet Disease On The Rise In 2018

Insect-borne pet disease on the rise

Q: I recently adopted a dog, Fred, and took him to the veterinarian, who did what he said was a heartworm test. The bill listed a test called “Heartworm Lyme Anaplasma Ehrlichia.” What are the other three names?

A: Your veterinarian did a “4Dx” test, aptly named because “Dx” is the abbreviation for “diagnosis,” and the test detects four organisms.

Heartworms, transmitted by mosquitoes, damage the heart, lungs, blood vessels and kidneys, sometimes killing the infected dog. Prevent heartworms by giving Fred a monthly chewable heartworm tablet (that also kills common intestinal worms), and continue it throughout the year.

Lyme, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia are three types of bacteria carried by ticks. All three affect multiple body systems and can be fatal. A year-round tick preventive, in the form of a chewable tablet, topical liquid or tick collar, substantially reduces the risk of infection.

The 4Dx test is more important than ever this year. Because of climate change, heartworms and tick-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent and spreading across the country. As more dogs are infected, their heartworms and bacteria are sucked up by an ever-increasing number of mosquitoes and ticks, which then infect more pets.

In addition, because more heartworm-infected dogs are being transported across the country for adoption, the range of this disease is expanding. The Companion Animal Parasite Council publishes parasite prevalence maps showing these and other parasites in counties and states throughout the US.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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