Top Signs & Symptoms Your Dog May Have Heartworms
With just a single bite from a mosquito, your dog can be infected by Dirofilaria immitis. It's the parasite that causes heartworm. The parasitic worm will live inside your pet's body, infecting its heart, hence the name. But heartworm can also reside in its lungs and associated blood vessels. The infection can cause heart failure, severe lung disease, and organ damage. Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease in pets; however, not all pets develop apparent symptoms. The only surefire way to confirm a diagnosis of heartworm in dogs is by performing blood tests. But there are warning signs you need to be on the lookout for. Here are the top signs and symptoms commonly reported in dogs with heartworm disease.
Mild, Persistent Dry Cough
A coughing dog is typically the first telltale sign that they have been infected with heartworm. Upon entering the lungs, the parasites multiply there and in the surrounding veins.
Along with a soft, dry cough, your dog may also have trouble breathing or exhibit rapid breathing. This occurs when the parasites infest your dog’s lungs and surrounding veins. Additionally, fluid can accumulate around the lung's blood vessels. This makes it hard for its lungs to pump oxygen into the blood.
Lethargy or Inactivity
Since the parasites attack your pet's heart and lungs, the disease can make ordinary activities like walking difficult for your dog. If you notice that there's a drop in its stamina or activity level, you'd have to visit your dog’s veterinarian.
Decreased Appetite and Weight Loss
Like in humans, significant and sudden loss of appetite or weight loss in dogs indicates a severe underlying health problem. This symptom usually occurs as the parasitic worms mature.
A Bulging Chest
Adult heartworm infection may also cause your dog's ribs to protrude. Its chest would bulge out due to weight loss or fluid buildup due to heartworm infection.
When the infection spreads in your dog's heart and bloodstream, the blood flow eventually gets blocked. This can destroy your pet's red blood cells, causing it to experience shock and collapse. Once the parasitic worms move to the brain, other severe symptoms will surface. These include lameness, seizures, and blindness. If heartworm disease is not treated at this point, it can be fatal.
Apart from these symptoms, it's also possible that your dog will show other signs. These include excessive sleeping, nosebleeds, increased blood pressure, or secondary pneumonia.
Do You Suspect Your Dog Has Heartworm?
Heartworm is a dangerous and progressive disease in dogs. The sooner your four-legged best friend receives treatment, the better the chances are at avoiding long-term health complications. Many of the signs and symptoms of heartworm can also be indications of other health conditions. This makes it even more challenging to pinpoint heartworm. As soon as you suspect your beloved pet has been infected, immediately take it to the vet so your dog can get tested.
Although heartworm is potentially life-threatening, it's a disease that's preventable. Visit the Animal Emergency Clinic of San Diego today for more information to protect your pet from heartworm. Call our office in Poway, California, at (858) 842-5600 to make an appointment.