Do you think your dog might have heartworms? Heartworms are a dangerous parasite that unfortunately infect dogs all too often. The only way to completely protect your dog against heartworms is to put him on heartworm preventative treatment and keep up with this medication monthly.
In the article below, you’ll find six of the most common signs of heartworm disease in dogs. Look at this list of signs and symptoms so you can figure out whether it’s time to discuss the possibility with your vet.
Common Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs
The first and most obvious symptom of heartworm in dogs is the persistent cough, which is often likened to the sound of a goose hoking. This goose honk cough occurs whether the dog has been active or not, but it is more common after a dog has just exerted himself in some way.
This type of cough is almost always associated with heartworms, but it could be related to other dog conditions such as collapsing trachea. Your vet will need to examine your dog and diagnose him correctly before you can plan a course of action.
2. Quick to Fatigue
Dogs who are quick to fatigue after just a little bit of exertion may have heartworms. As the worms continue to grow in the dog’s heart and weaken the muscle, the dog is not as capable of being active as he once was. In older dogs, this can be mistaken as a sign of aging when it may be caused by heartworms.
This symptom is, however, related to a variety of other health conditions as well. Any type of heart problem or illness may cause your dog to be quick to fatigue after short bursts of activity, so keep this in mind.
3. Disinterest in Play or Exercise
Since a dog with heartworms has trouble getting enough energy for normal activity, and since activity usually aggravates his coughing, he quickly loses interest in playtime or exercise. He is unable or unwilling to participate in the type of play he once enjoyed and may show no signs of wanting to try.
Like many symptoms on this list, disinterest in play can be a sign of other health problems in dogs as well. You should always have your dog diagnosed by a veterinarian if you think he is showing a decrease in his normal interest levels.
4. Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
The overall feeling of being sick and the difficulty your dog has finding enough energy for his daily life contribute to his loss of appetite from heartworms. A dog with moderate to severe heartworm disease may not be interested in food and may have to be coerced to eat enough to keep himself alive.
Of course, when your dog suddenly stops eating as much as he should, this will cause sudden and rapid weight loss as well. Your dog will start to look wasted and may have poor coat condition because of this symptom of heartworm disease as well.
5. Trouble Breathing
As the disease progresses into the severe stage, your dog may have difficulty breathing if he is suffering from heartworms. Early stages don’t cause this symptom, but as the heart fills up with worms, the worms begin invading other organs of the body as well. They will eventually find their way to the lungs, where they will start to cause breathing difficulties for your dog.
If you think your dog is having trouble breathing, check his gums. If they are discolored in any way from their normal color, this means he is not getting enough oxygen and should see a veterinarian right away.
6. Swelling in the Abdomen
Finally, during the last severe stages of heartworm disease, dogs begin to swell in the abdomen. This is caused by the buildup of fluid in the dog’s body related to his heart failing. The dog will swell significantly, and this will be a noticeable and obvious symptom.
Dogs do not have to reach this stage if they are cared for properly. Heartworm disease can be managed and, in some cases, can even be treated by working with a skilled and knowledgeable vet. And of course, if your dog is on heartworm preventative medication, he won’t risk this terrible condition at all.
Treatment for Dogs with Heartworm
Heartworm disease is a very serious problem for dogs, and it can be fatal if left untreated. However, thanks to modern vet care and technology, it is sometimes possible to treat a dog with heartworms and have him make a full recovery. This treatment option is still new, but it is so far proving to be very successful, even in dogs with more advanced stages of the disease.