4DX: The Four-Way Test That Saves Canine Lives
Preventive care is all about keeping your pet happy and healthy, and one of the most important tests for dogs is called 4DX. This is a blood test that checks for four common diseases in dogs: Heartworm, plus three tick-borne diseases. Every dog should get a 4DX test during its annual exam. Not only can this save your pet’s life, but it can also save you thousands of dollars in critical treatment should your dog come down with any of these awful diseases.
Test 1: Heartworms
Heartworms come from mosquitos, and mosquitos that carry heartworm have become more prevalent in Virginia over the last few years. This is because a lot of dogs from the deep South relocated to our area after Hurricane Katrina. Many of these dogs carried heartworm and passed it along to the local mosquito population. Whenever a healthy dog gets bit by a mosquito carrying heartworm, the heartworms spend the next 6 months developing into adults in the dog’s heart and lungs. Over time they cause irreversible damage to both of these organs, and if a large enough number of worms grow they can actually cause a complete blockage in the heart. What’s really scary is some dogs never show symptoms. However, some may develop a cough, lose their tolerance for exercise, or act lethargic. And here’s what’s really important: Mosquitos can be found at any time during the year—Even inside homes. Therefore, it is imperative, even for indoor-only dogs, to be on heartworm preventions all year long, and for them to be tested yearly.
Test 2: Lyme
Lyme disease is probably the most infamous tick-borne disease. It is also the most prevalent. About 60% of central Virginia’s dog population gets diagnosed with Lyme at some point in their lives. However, annual exams are when most of these cases get caught—thanks in large part to 4DX screenings. This is very important because most dogs with the disease don’t show symptoms during the crucial early stages. The longer a case of Lyme is untreated, the worse it gets. Lyme disease is most known for causing joint pain and lameness, but it can also cause kidney failure and death. Even owners who give their pets newer oral flea and tick products should get their pets tested, as no preventative is 100% effective.
Test 3: Ehrlichia
Ehrlichia is another tick-borne disease found in central Virginia. As with Lyme, 4DX can catch cases early and has saved countless canine lives. Ehrlichia may cause lethargy, depression, anorexia, fever, neurologic signs, and eye pain. The scariest symptom of Ehrlichia is spontaneous bleeding, which is caused because the disease attacks platelets in the blood, which prevents the blood from clotting. Needless to say, this free-bleeding can be life-threatening and requires hospitalization. If diagnosed early with 4DX, Ehrlichia is easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
Test 4: Anaplasma
Anaplasma is very similar in presentation to Ehrlichia but is not found as frequently in central Virginia. By testing yearly with the 4DX, the disease may be caught before symptoms develop and can be life-saving. Since the 4DX tests for antibodies (the body’s immune response) against Ehrlichia and Anaplasma, it is possible that your dog may continue to be positive for the rest of its life, even after treatment. If this is the case, a complete blood count should be performed yearly to determine if a further course of antibiotics will be required.
Adding a 4DX to your dog’s annual wellness exam can be a life-saving diagnostic. Paired with all year round heartworm and flea and tick preventatives, the 4DX helps keep your dog healthy for a long and happy life.
For more information, contact our team at VETSS, a Charlottesville VA urgent care animal hospital!