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Understanding the Signs of Heartworm Disease

Parasitic worms that sporadically reside on the right side of the heart in pets like dogs, cats, and ferrets cause the risky and occasionally fatal condition known as heartworm disease. Since the bite of an infected mosquito spreads it, pet owners worldwide should be concerned. Recognizing the symptoms of heartworm disease can be essential to receiving early diagnosis and efficient treatment.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Dirofilaria immitis is the parasite that causes heartworm disease. When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it can transmit heartworm larvae into the animal’s bloodstream. These larvae then mature into adult heartworms over several months, which can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body.

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:

Cats can display a variety of symptoms, and some may not show any at all. Symptoms that may be present include:

  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.

Although heartworm disease poses a serious risk to a pet’s health, it can be prevented and treated if detected early. Ensure your pet is protected against heartworm disease by calling your veterinarian immediately if you see any of the above-mentioned symptoms in them. To keep your cherished friend safe, your veterinarian might suggest a preventive program and do testing. The best defense against heartworm illness is, as always, aggressive prevention. Make an appointment today to discuss heartworm testing and prevention for your pet—don’t wait until it’s too late.