Recognizing the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

The dangerous and sometimes fatal condition known as heartworm disease is brought on by parasitic worms that occasionally live on the right side of the heart in pets like dogs, cats, and ferrets. Since it is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, pet owners everywhere should be concerned. Recognizing the symptoms of heartworm disease can be essential to receiving early diagnosis and efficient treatment.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. Pets may contract heartworms through mosquito bites, which inject heartworm larvae into the animal’s blood. After a few months, these larvae develop into adult heartworms, which can harm various organs in the body in addition to causing serious lung illness and heart failure.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs:

  1. Coughing: A persistent, dry cough is one of dogs’ most common signs of heartworm disease. Exercise can worsen this cough and make it appear to have kennel cough or other respiratory problems.
  2. Lethargy and Fatigue: Dogs with heartworm disease often exhibit a noticeable decrease in energy. They may become quickly tired after moderate activity or may show reluctance to engage in exercise at all.
  3. Weight Loss and Anorexia: Some dogs may experience a loss of appetite and weight loss as the disease progresses.
  4. Difficulty Breathing: As the heartworms inhabit the lungs and surrounding blood vessels, dogs may have difficulty breathing and exhibit an increased respiratory rate.
  5. Bulging Chest: In advanced cases, the chest may appear swollen due to weight loss or excess fluid.
  6. Collapse: In extreme circumstances, a dog might suddenly collapse because the number of worms overwhelms the cardiovascular system.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Cats:

A cat may have a variety of symptoms, or none at all. The following symptoms may be present:

  1. Coughing or Asthma-like Attacks: Respiratory problems are a common sign of heartworm disease in cats and can be mistaken for feline asthma.
  2. Vomiting: Unlike dogs, vomiting is not necessarily associated with eating and can be a more common sign in cats with heartworm disease.
  3. Weight Loss: As with dogs, cats may also experience weight loss.
  4. Lethargy: Decreased activity levels or general malaise can indicate heartworm disease in cats.
  5. Sudden Collapse or Death: In some cases, the first sign of heartworm disease in cats can be sudden collapse or sudden death due to the smaller number of worms causing a significant impact.

Heartworm disease is a severe health threat to pets, but it is also preventable and treatable when caught early. If you notice any of the signs mentioned above in your pet or want to ensure your pet is protected against heartworm disease, it’s crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can provide testing and recommend a preventive regimen to keep your beloved companion safe. The best defense against heartworm illness is, as always, aggressive prevention. Make an appointment today to talk about heartworm testing and prevention for your pet—don’t wait until it’s too late.