Many dog owners do not know just how dangerous heartworms are to dogs. Veterinarians can only diagnose heartworms when they are adults. If your canine companion has heartworms, it means that they have been living in your dog’s heart and lungs for at least four months. Therefore, it is important to go for heartworm checkups early to seek treatment faster.
This invisible disease can cause serious health problems and even death in pets. Mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of the disease which can cause heart failure, lung disease, and harm to various organs in your dog’s body. In addition to affecting dogs, heartworms can also affect cats, sea lions, ferrets, foxes, coyotes, and other mammals. In rare instances, they can affect humans as well.
Microscopic heartworm larvae develop under the infected animal’s skin and then move to the blood vessels of the lungs and heart. They start to grow rapidly, becoming adults that can be one foot in length. Heartworm disease is an invisible killer since it can cause serious damage to the blood vessels in the lungs and heart long before any symptoms start to appear.
Signs and Symptoms of Heartworms
In the early infection stages, most dogs will not show any symptoms. As the disease continues to progress, however, you will start to notice certain signs and symptoms. It is important to pay close attention to these symptoms and take your furry friend to the veterinarian if they persist. Some of the common symptoms include:
One of the most obvious symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs is a dry cough. Once the parasites migrate to the lungs and surrounding veins, your dog will develop a persistent cough, usually after any form of activity. This is one of the first symptoms you notice in an otherwise healthy-looking dog.
Decreased Appetite Leading to Weight Loss
As the parasites mature and move into the lungs and heart, your dog may lose their appetite. If you notice that your dog is finding it difficult to complete simple tasks such as eating, chances are that they are sick. Dogs with this disease often feel weaker and find it difficult to remain active.
Inactivity or Lethargy
You need to take your dog to the veterinarian’s office if you notice changes in their stamina or activity level. When the parasites get to your dog’s lungs and heart, your pet will find it difficult to finish simple activities.
A vet can recognize the signs and symptoms of a failing heart better than a pet owner. However, a pet owner can notice an erratic heartbeat, which is a sign of heart problems. It is also common for dogs' stomachs to get bigger due to fluid filling up in the abdomen.
Other Signs and Symptoms
Many dogs with this condition often have bloody urine. Others even collapse as the worms block their hearts almost completely. As the heartworms mature, dogs exhibit more obvious signs and symptoms. Therefore, when a pet owner discovers that their dog has heartworm disease, the condition is already serious.
To learn more about heartworms in dogs, visit Highland Veterinary Clinic at our office in Evansville, Indiana. You can call 812-710-4300 today to schedule an appointment.