What are the Signs of Heartworms in Dogs?

Heartworm disease is one of the most common diseases found in dogs, and if your pet is not on a monthly preventative that is used year-round, there’s always a risk they could contract heartworms, too. As a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heartworm infection before it gets out of hand.

Read through the article below to find out more about the most common signs of heartworm infection in dogs. If you notice some of these symptoms in your pet, you can take them to the vet for a diagnostic workup and for treatment options.

 

Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs Include:

Persistent Cough

The most obvious sign of heartworms in dogs is the noticeable and persisting cough that goes along with this disease. It is a dry cough, but it comes frequently and is usually brought on by activity. In dogs who are in the first stages of heartworm disease, the cough may be brought about by even a small amount of play or exercise. However, in dogs in advanced stages, it can be caused by something as simple as eating.

If your dog has a persistent cough that doesn’t seem to clear up in a few days, take them to the vet for a full checkup.

Dog Coughing

 

Weight Loss

Weight loss usually comes along with the early to middle states of the disease. Dogs who have been struggling with heartworms for a long time simply do not feel like eating, and some may begin coughing uncontrollably when they try to eat. For this reason, affected dogs may lose weight fairly quickly.

Rapid weight loss, however, is a sign of a wide range of other potential health problems in dogs too. If this is the only symptom you see, you cannot be sure the problem is heartworms. Your vet will need to do a full workup on your pet to diagnose them.

 

Lack of Energy and Weakness

Lack of energy (lethargy) and weakness are two more symptoms that go hand-in-hand and can commonly be found along with heartworm disease. However, once again, they are common with other types of diseases and ailments of dogs, so they alone are not a good indication of heartworms. When coupled with other symptoms on this list, however, they can be.

Dogs who suffer from heartworm disease have trouble exercising or playing because this activity makes the coughing worse. Over time, they become lethargic and grow weaker from the disease and the toll it takes on the heart.

Dog Sleeping

 

Breathing Trouble

As dogs reach the mid-to-advanced stages of heartworm disease, they have more and more trouble breathing. They may wheeze or show signs that they are breathing too rapidly, or you might just notice your dog’s sides moving in and out faster than they used to. All of these symptoms show that your dog’s heart may be struggling due to the heartworms present.

If your dog is having trouble breathing and you suspect heartworms, there may be little that can be done at this stage. However, you’ll need to find out for sure from your vet, who can give you specific advice for your pet’s needs.

 

Swollen Abdomen

A swollen belly is a sign that your dog is nearing the end of their life as a result of heartworm disease. When heartworms overload the heart, they cause heart failure. This condition leads to the buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen, which can cause the abdomen to appear swollen.

This symptom may also be a sign of liver or kidney failure, especially in senior dogs or those with known underlying health problems aside from heartworms. If you notice this symptom, do not wait to get your dog to the vet to find out the cause.

 

Frequent Vomiting

Finally, frequent vomiting usually goes along with heartworms. Dogs who cough often may cause themselves to vomit as a result of their extensive coughing. Some dogs may feel nauseated from their heartworms as well, and may vomit often just because they feel so sick with the disease.

Vomiting does not occur in every dog that has heartworms. However, there is a good chance you’ll notice your dog vomiting more often than they are used to if they’re dealing with heartworm disease. If you notice frequent vomiting along with other symptoms on this list, it’s a good idea to have your dog tested for heartworms.

Dog Puking

 

These signs of heartworms can help you recognize when your dog may be dealing with this common, but sometimes dangerous, disease. If you take your pet to the vet right away at the first sign of heartworm disease, you can put her on a management plan with the help of your vet and get her back on the road to recovery in no time.

Our vet will help you figure out the best options for your pet moving forward and can give you recommendations based on your individual pet’s needs, too.