Recognizing the Signs of Heartworm Illness

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 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 responsible for heartworm illness. Heartworm larvae can enter an animal’s circulation through the bite of an infected mosquito. The adult heartworms that these larvae eventually develop into can harm various organs in the body in addition to causing serious lung illness and heart failure over a period of several months.

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 exhibit different symptoms, and some may show no signs. When present, symptoms can 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.

Pets at risk from heartworm disease should not be ignored; if detected early enough, it can be prevented and treated. It’s essential to contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any of the above indicators in your pet or want to be sure they are shielded from heartworm illness. For the safety of your cherished pet, your veterinarian can offer tests and suggest a prophylactic plan. The best line of defense against heartworm illness is aggressive prevention. Contact your veterinarian to talk about heartworm testing and prevention for your pet—don’t wait until it’s too late.