Heartworm is the name of a parasitic roundworm (Dirofilaria immitis), which is found to spread from one host to the other through mosquito bites. A small worm that looks like a thread, it takes dogs as its definitive host. However, it can also be found to infect cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes and other animals, such as ferrets and sea lions and, in some cases, even humans. The parasite is known as ‘heartworm’ since it mainly resides in the pulmonary artery of its host, during the adult reproductive stage of its life cycle.
Heartworms can keep on residing in the pulmonary artery of its host for many years. The infection that results from this can cause serious diseases in the host. In fact, if left untreated for a long time, heartworm can even result in the death of its host. Though found in almost all the areas of the world, heartworms mainly breed in the warmer, more southern climates, including most of the United States. Administration of prophylactic treatment, on a monthly basis, serves as the best defense against this disease. Read on to know symptoms of heartworm and save your dog.
Dog Heartworm Symptoms
If a dog gets affected by heartworm, it might take years for the symptoms to surface. In the early stages of infestation by the parasite, a mild cough is the most common symptom. As the infection remains untreated, it may develop into severe symptoms, including:
- Fatigue: If your pet tires up instantly after doing its regular chores, like playing or after returning from a walk, there are chances that it might be suffering from the disease.
- Severe Coughing: If your pet coughs a lot and you feel that it is a deep- chested cough, there are chances that it might be suffering from heartworm. In this case, take your pet to a veterinary doctor immediately.
- Breathing Difficulties: If your pet yearns for breath or gulps for air, see the veterinary doctor immediately, as it can be fatal.
- Weight Loss: If your pet shows no interest in food and seems to be losing weight fast, or losing weight even after eating, it is a clear sign that heartworm has attacked your dog.
- Lack of Energy: You want to play with your dog and adore it and it does not want to move from its place. If this condition persists for long, rush to the doctor immediately.
- Fluid Build-up In Abdomen: Check out the abdomen of your pet while cuddling it and if you feel a fluid build-up in that area, it is time to see the doctor.
- Difficulty In Exercising: If your playful pet does not seem to take interest in exercise or finds it difficult and sits down at very short intervals, take it seriously and visit the veterinary.
- Bloody Sputum: If your pet coughs up bloody sputum, don’t wait for any other symptom. Take it very seriously and visit the doctor at once.
- Abnormal Lung Sounds: This is another symptom of serious illness in your dog, which should not be taken lightly. If you feel that your dog takes short breath swiftly or slowly, with a sound, see your doctor.
- Loss of Consciousness: If your dog faints while performing its regular chores, it means that the disease has taken a serious turn. Take it to the doctor as soon as possible.
In case, the parasite affects the liver too, additional symptoms like jaundice, loss of appetite and collapse might also be noticed. If the problem remains undiagnosed and untreated for a long period of time, it will result in the eventual death of the animal.