Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

Do you think your pet is struggling with heartworm disease? Heartworm disease is a severe illness that can cause heart failure, organ injury, lung illness, and death in pets. It is most prevalent in cats, dogs, and ferrets. The disease onsets when long, thread-like worms infect your pet. These parasites then live in the lungs and heart, causing life-threatening damage to organs.

Heartworms spread by infected mosquitos acting as transitional hosts. When one bites your pet, the larvae infect them to finish their life cycle in his or her body. The parasite moves to the heart and lungs through the bloodstream. Over six to seven months, they mature into adults and reproduce. Mature heartworms can last up to five years, with females birthing millions of worms that live in the bloodstream.

For this reason, it can take a couple of years before a pet displays signs of infection. By the time symptoms begin to show, the infection is often advanced. Here are signs and symptoms that your pet has heartworms.


Persistent Dry Cough

A lingering dry cough is one of the earliest signs that your pet has heartworm disease. This is a common sign that your dog or cat is infected by heartworms, as healthy-looking as the pet might seem. In some instances, the coughs might result in fainting even after minimal physical activity.


Coughing Up Blood

Veterinarians have reported coughing up blood as an outcome of serious heartworm disease in dogs. Although this symptom is relatively rare, there are cases where dogs have coughed up blood or vomited adult heartworms.


Irregular or Loud Heartbeat

Heartworm disease can trigger high blood pressure. This is often accompanied by rapid, loud, or irregular heartbeat in your pet. This respiratory issue occurs when the worms occupy your pet’s lungs and neighboring blood vessels.


Difficulty Breathing

As the heartworms occupy your pet’s lungs and veins, breathing becomes difficult. Together with coughing, areas surrounding the veins in the lungs will start to collect fluid, causing your pet to have trouble getting oxygen. This then causes shallow, fast breaths.


Inactivity or Unwillingness to Exercise

Take note of your pet’s energy level. If your pet loses interest in physical activity, such as taking walks or playing outside, and appears exhausted, there is a possibility that your pet is unwell. Pets with heartworm disease feel lethargic and find it difficult to stay active, even in light activities.


Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss

Have you noticed a decrease in your pet’s appetite? In advanced stages, heartworms may steal your pet’s appetite. He or she will then lose weight as a result. If your dog or cat is reluctant to eat, take that as a sign that they are having a health issue and get them examined right away.


Swollen Tummy

As heartworms continue to grow, they can trigger heart failure. You may notice that your pet’s tummy looks swollen from a buildup of fluid in the abdominal area. If your pet’s belly appears bloated, call your veterinarian to rule out heartworm disease as the cause of the swollen stomach.

To know more about heartworm disease, visit Circle of Life Animal Hospital at our office in Tampa, FL. You can also call (813) 850-0600 to book an appointment today.

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