4DX Testing: A Powerful Screening Tool

The 4DX test is a quick 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 as the climate warms and more dogs (unknowingly infected) are brought into the province from other areas where mosquito borne diseases are widespread. In a few discrete areas within southern Ontario, such as Peterborough County, the prevalence of infection in dogs not on a heartworm preventive can be as high as 5% to 10%.* 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 your dog. The bite deposits microfilaria which then grow and mature into adult heartworms.  Heartworms actually live in the heart and bloodstream. Preventative heartworm medication does not kill adult worms, but rather the microfilaria.  It is recommended that pet owners use preventive heartworm treatment for their dogs during the mosquito season from June until November.

It takes months for the microfilaria to develop into adult worms. A heartworm infection may not be detectable until six 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, then prompt treatment may be started.  Without treatment, the adult worms will continue to grow and reproduce. They damage the heart and allow the infection to spread.

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 Ontario, 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 and swelling, lameness and a decrease in appetite.

If Lyme is undetected and untreated, progression to kidney failure could result.  Dogs may receive a vaccination against Lyme disease, 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. 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 now be given year-round.  Ticks can emerge during warm days above 4°C, 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 for conscientious pet families to safeguard the health of their furry friends. The 4DX test is an important tool to assist in this goal.