Is Your Pet at Risk? Understanding Heartworm Disease Symptoms

by Apr 18, 2024Blog

Is Your Pet at Risk? Understanding Heartworm Disease Symptoms

Heartworm disease, caused by parasitic worms that can reside on the right side of pets’ hearts, affects dogs, cats, and ferrets, posing a serious and potentially fatal threat. This disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, making it a concern for pet owners everywhere. Recognizing the signs of heartworm disease is crucial for early detection and effective treatment.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it can transmit heartworm larvae into the animal’s bloodstream. These larvae mature into adult heartworms over several months, leading to severe lung disease, heart failure, and organ damage.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs:

– Coughing: A persistent, dry cough is one of the most common signs, often exacerbated by exercise and resembling kennel cough.
– Lethargy and Fatigue: Dogs may exhibit a noticeable decrease in energy, becoming quickly tired after moderate activity.
– Weight Loss and Anorexia: Some dogs may experience a loss of appetite and weight loss as the disease progresses.
– Difficulty Breathing: Dogs may have difficulty breathing due to heartworms affecting the lungs and surrounding blood vessels.
– Bulging Chest: In advanced cases, the chest may appear swollen due to weight loss or excess fluid.
– Collapse: Dogs might suddenly collapse due to an overload of worms in the cardiovascular system.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Cats:

– Cats may exhibit different symptoms, and some may show no signs at all. However, common symptoms include:
– Coughing or Asthma-like Attacks: Respiratory problems are common in cats with heartworm disease and can be mistaken for feline asthma.
– Vomiting: Vomiting may occur in cats with heartworm disease, unlike in dogs where it is not necessarily associated with eating.
– Weight Loss: Cats may experience weight loss due to the disease.
– Lethargy: Decreased activity levels or general malaise can indicate heartworm disease in cats.
– Sudden Collapse or Death: In some cases, cats may suddenly collapse or die due to the significant impact of a smaller number of worms.

Heartworm disease is a severe health threat to pets, but it is 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, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can provide testing and recommend a preventive regimen to keep your beloved companion safe. Remember, proactive prevention is the best defense against heartworm disease. Don’t wait until it’s too late—schedule an appointment with your veterinarian today to discuss heartworm testing and prevention for your pet.