Heartworm disease in dogs is caused by worms that are parasites and can affect many major organs of the body. These worms are transmitted by mosquitos to dogs in larvae stage. These larvae begin to grow and multiply and then move to the heart and lungs through the blood vessels and live there. These worms can grow up to a foot long in the dog’s body.
Heartworms can cause severe damage to the dog, as they are microscopic and difficult to diagnose in most cases. This condition progresses slowly and can go undetected for a long time, because initially, only mild symptoms can be seen. It can also affect the quality of dog’s life to a great extent, by the time the dog is completely relieved of this disease.
Heartworm Symptoms in dogs
Persistent Dry Cough
When the heartworms reach the lungs, they begin to multiply in the lungs and the connected blood vessels. Your dog starts to cough after any mild activity and it can become persistent. Sometimes there may be fainting spells associated with severe coughing.
Difficulty in Breathing
Once the lungs are affected by heartworms, it can lead to respiratory problems. Your dog may experience difficulty in breathing, which is apparent from constant panting. The space around the lungs gets filled with fluid, making the dog harder to draw breaths.
Swollen Belly or Chest
Fluid also begins to accumulate in the abdomen of the dog, along with chest, as the disease advances into next stage. This can make the dog’s belly and chest appear bulged or swollen.
Tiredness and lethargy
Your dog seems to lose interest in accompanying you to daily walks and other activities. Heartworm disease can make the dogs weak and they will mostly remain inactive throughout the day.
As the disease progresses, your dog may struggle to finish its meals and may lose appetite. The dog loses weight as well. If you notice this, you should immediately see your vet to diagnose the issue.
When the disease reaches to a final stage where heartworm population has increased to a great extent, the worms inhabit the heart and its blood vessels. This can block the blood flow and cause damage to red blood cells. Your dog starts collapsing because of the severity of internal damage and may soon die. If you notice any changes in your dogs usual behavior, you should seek your vet’s advice, because it’s better to catch heartworm disease at an early stage and treat it to avoid complications. Blood tests help in diagnosing this issue in dogs.