Testing of dogs: Dirofilariasis

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Usual turnaround time: 5 business days
1 test price: 38.00 $ without VAT

Dirofilariasis or heartworm

Fast and accurate test. We detect directly the cells of the parasite.

Sample of 1 ml blood in EDTA tube is required for testing.

Dirofilariasis – disease is a serious parasitic disease that affects mainly dogs. It is caused by a filarial parasitic worm known as Dirofilaria immitis that is a parasite circulating in the bloodstream.  As the better known ascarids, the heartworm belongs to roundworms (nematodes). It differs  from the ascarids by the body shape, way of parasitisation and its life cycle. Adult dog heartworms live mainly in the right atrium and the right ventricle and in lung arteries which get clogged by the heartworm bodies and cause blood circulation failures.

Parasite occurrence

The dog heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, occurs all over the world, frequently in tropical and sub-tropical regions; however it is gradually spreading to the regions with temperate climate. In Europe it occurs mainly in the Mediterranean region – Italy, Greece, France, Spain, and Portugal.  This disease has been even imported to the Central Europe from these regions due to travelling and dog import and its occurrence is growing. At our latitude, the basic conditions for heartworm spreading are very favourable such as suitable air temperature and presence of stinging insects that serve as intermediate hosts and carriers.

Parasite life cycle

The heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, needs two hosts to mature in an adult worm. The main hosts, where the heartworms reach sexual maturity, are mammals particularly dogs, but it can also be other canines and cats. The intermediate hosts and carriers can be more than 60 various mosquito species and a lot of them occur in our region as well.

When a mosquito, as an intermediate host, bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it sucks up baby worms (microfilaria) that were passed into the blood of the main host by the female heartworms.  If the climatic conditions are suitable (outside temperature above 15 °C), then once inside the mosquito´s body (intermediate host) the microfilaria go through  development from microfilaria into invasive larvae (infective stage) over  a period of 14 days up to one month. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another animal and sucks the blood, the infective microfilariae/larvae are transferred with the salivary glands secret onto the new host, where they migrate in the hypodermis and the muscular tissue and later enter into the bloodstream, where they mature into adult heartworms. Sexually mature female heartworms release larvae into the circulatory system and the whole life cycle repeats. The adult heartworms are very long filarial nematodes with a length of 12-30 cm; the female heartworms are always longer. The heartworms can live in the main host organism for 5 to 7 years.

Clinical signs

The severity of the clinical signs is given by the number of parasites in the dog´s organism, its activity, work load and stress.  In the early stages of the disease, most dogs affected with dirofilariasis show no symptoms at all. In active dogs, the clinical signs are seen sooner. The first signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, breathing difficulties and reduced activity. The dogs suffer from loss of appetite, increased temperature and swelling in various parts of the body.

Large number of parasites clogs the right ventricle and causes circulatory system failures.  Heart failure signs, weakness, lethargy, shortness of breath, liver enlargement or inflammatory kidney disease may develop as the disease progresses.  In infected gravid female dogs, the microfilariae can enter the babies, but they are not able to infect the unborn puppies and develop and mature inside them.


To diagnose the dirofilariasis it possible to carry out blood tests that can discover the presence of microfilariae.  These tests are recently offered by our laboratory.

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Usual turnaround time: 5 business days
1 test price: 38.00 $ without VAT