The disease is caused by worms living in blood vessels, lungs, and the heart, resulting in heart failure in addition to organ damage. Unfortunately, if your four-legged friend manages to contract heartworm disease, it tends to be fatal if left untreated. You must recognize the signs as soon as possible for the best outcome.
Much like certain illnesses in humans, it is possible for a dog to carry the disease and not show any symptoms. Blood tests can confirm the presence of heartworm, which is why you must get your dog checked regularly. If your dog starts showing these signs, you will want to get them checked right away.
Difficulty in Breathing
Even in a dog that does not show symptoms, your pup will have difficulty breathing in more advanced stages. Your furry friend will likely experience severe respiratory problems if this happens, recognized by short and shallow breaths. Coughing will also get more severe.
Dogs will cough when they get something caught in their throat or when allergies are present. A heartworm cough is different. It is a dry cough and typically one of the early signs your pup may be sick. This can be the only symptom that you will see as the disease runs its course, so if your dog has a persistent dry cough, you will want to visit your vet.
Eating and Activity Decrease
Dogs sometimes lose interest in food and start losing weight. They may not want anything to do with food or seem too tired to eat. If your dog is also showing signs of exhaustion or lethargy and does not want to engage in play or exercise, it could also be a sign of heartworm.
Swelling in the Abdomen
Heartworm disease causes another issue in more advanced stages for some dogs. The belly appears to be swollen, but it is not fat or because your pet just ate. Instead, it is fluid that is building up in the abdominal area due to impending heart failure.
Fainting or Collapsing
If left untreated, heartworms will get to the heart and cause the blood flow to be blocked. When blood flow stops or is blocked, your pet can faint. Collapsing is different in that it is caused by your pet going into shock because blood cells are being destroyed. Death is imminent at this stage and can happen in just a few days.
Recognizing Symptoms Quickly
Heartworm disease can progress slowly, sometimes taking one to two years to reach advanced stages. The initial larvae reach adulthood in approximately seven months, and then they multiply. The length of time makes recognizing symptoms difficult because the signs may seem gradual. In more advanced stages, you can consider surgery to remove heartworms, but once your dog is at that point, your furry friend does not have great odds of survival. Because of this, prevention is best.
Discuss your options with your vet to keep your pet healthy and worm-free. Contact Mokena Animal Clinic at our location in Mokena, Illinois, at 708-479-2811 if you would like to make an appointment.