What is a 4DX?

When Spring arrives all vet clinics start calling dog owners to remind them that their seasonal 4DX test is due, but what is this? We often forget that owners don’t speak our language! Simply put, a 4DX is a blood test that checks to see if your dog has antigen to heartworm disease or  antibodies to one of the five tick-borne diseases (Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia ewingii, Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma platys).

4Dx tester

Figure 1: 4DX snap test

This is a screening test, which gives us a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If a positive result occurs we need to do further testing. The 4DX test is fast and done in the clinic and should be done every spring if living in Canada. If you and your pet are lucky enough to spend winters elsewhere it should be done twice a year. Detecting these diseases early means that we can treat them early and usually successfully.

Heartworm disease is not that common in our region but I have diagnosed several cases in the last 5 years. Many of these cases are from rescue foundations coming from the USA. Unfortunately, a few of these cases opted to NOT treat their dogs. This means that we have the potential for more cases in our area as mosquitoes bite these dogs and then travel to your dog. There are no laws requiring dog owners to treat their dog even if the disease is infectious.

All dogs should be given a Heartworm Disease Preventative medication during the months of June to (and including) November. If you travel to warm areas during the winter with your dog this medication should be continued year round. Often people will comment that their dog spends 90% or more of their time indoors. This does not matter since I’m sure we have all been bitten by a mosquito inside our homes!

Our area, especially Prince Edward County, is a very high tick burden area as well as being the “hot-spot” for Lyme Disease. The other tick-borne diseases are not common in our area yet but it is thought that they will soon be here.

Our main focus is on prevention of Lyme Disease. Since ticks are active when temperatures are above 4 degrees celsius the preventive product start time may vary year to year. I have personally had a tick in both December and February one year. A Lyme vaccine is available for dogs and giving this along with tick preventatives is the best protection.

The key point to remember is that these are all preventable vector-borne diseases that can be deadly if left undetected and untreated.

There is a lot more information on these diseases and types of preventatives. If you have questions regarding the diseases, or the best preventative medication to use for your dog, please don’t hesitate to contact us.