In dogs, heartworm disease is often referred to as the silent killer. Most people actually overlook it until it’s too late to be treated. Heartworms are parasites hosted by dogs and may lead to severe health issues and even death if not taken care of in good time.
However, the symptoms of heartworm take long before they show, and in most dogs, there are little or no signs shown during the initial stages of heartworm.
This article will share seven symptoms you need to watch out for that may indicate your dog has heartworm.
1. Dry cough.
The heartworms find their way into the lungs of your dog, and they begin to multiply. They reproduce in the lungs and surrounding veins. This is when your dog may start showing signs of a dry cough, mostly so even after some light exercises. In most cases, these coughs may cause fainting. This is one of the first signs that will show, and once you observe such, be sure to take your dog to the vet for it to be treated. You might be able to save its life.
You will realize very quickly that once an active and cheerful dog, now is mostly dull and inactive even when you try to play around with it, it doesn’t do much. It gets exhausted quickly and is mostly on the dull side, which is an unusual symptom of your dog. It mostly doesn’t want to go outside or take part in any physical activity. Once you notice this, know that there is a high chance your dog might be sick. Once heartworm disease creeps up in dogs, it leaves them feeling weak, and they find it hard to stay active even in low-impact activities.
3. Difficulty in breathing.
Once the worms have infested the lungs and the surrounding veins of your dog, it is very likely to experience respiratory problems. Apart from the dry coughs, the regions surrounding the blood vessels in the lungs will start to retain some fluids. This fluid makes it hard for our dog to receive enough oxygen in the lungs. Because of this, you will realize your dog is having episodes of rapid breaths to get the blood oxygenated out of the very little oxygen it receives.
4. Loss of appetite and eventual weight loss.
When the heartworm disease infection reaches more advanced stages, some minor activities like eating become a heavy task for your dog to perform. Loss of appetite eventually results in weight loss. Once you observe these signs, even though if the disease is heartworm, then it means it has reached its advanced stages, it is a good idea to take your dog to the vet and rule out the possibility of heartworm disease.
5. Bulging of the chest.
In the advanced stages of heartworm disease, if your dog remains untreated, the ribs will seem like they are protruding, and the chest will produce a bulging appearance. This is usually because of infection by adult heartworms when they have multiplied and had time to grow to maturity. These can be symptoms resulting from loss of weight and appetite, and the build-up of fluids, in response to the presence of parasites.
6. Allergic reactions.
Even though this symptom is most common in cats with heartworm disease, it may also show in dogs in the form of asthmatic symptoms similar to allergic reactions brought about as a response to the presence of heartworm infection. This is a sign you should not ignore, as it may make a difference between life and death to your dog, so take action and take him to the vet to be sure.
When there grows a large population of heartworms in the heart and surrounding blood vessels, it causes a blockage in blood flow; a condition referred to as vena cava syndrome, fainting occurs. Fainting is usually brought about by shock or the death of red blood cells. When this happens, it means the disease is in highly advanced stages, and death may follow in days.
Other symptoms associated with heartworm include nose bleeding, seizures, high blood pressure, pneumonia, excess sleep, and even blindness. Seizures and blindness only occur when the infection affects the eyes and the brain, although it happens in rare cases and may be attributed to other diseases.
It’s important to be aware of your dog’s character so that you may be able to identify some of the symptoms like inactivity. When it reaches advanced stages, heartworm disease becomes hard to treat and even more expensive, so be sure to check on your dog’s health frequently.