Heartworm disease is a fatal disease that affects pets all over the world, especially dogs. Heartworm disease occurs when an infected mosquito bites your dog, leaving behind microfilariae, which then develop to become larvae.
The larvae stay under your dog’s skin and gradually move to the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. The disease cannot spread from one dog to another, so you need not worry if your dog interacts with other dogs.
Heartworms can cause severe damage before any signs get noticed. Though treatment is available, the disease can cause severe and lasting damage to your dog’s major organs.
What Are the Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs?
In dogs, heartworms manifest themselves in four stages. In the early stages of the disease, you may hardly recognize the symptoms. The longer the infection stays in your dog’s body, the more symptoms you are likely to notice. Here are the four stages. Note that some may overlap, but with this guide, you can have an idea of what heartworms can do to your dog.
The first stage is usually symptom-free. In this stage, the disease has not progressed, but the heartworms are already present in your dog’s heart. At this stage, the dog’s immunity is yet to produce antigens to fight the infection. Thus, there are not enough signs for you to detect the disease.
In stage two, the heartworms have stayed in your dog’s body long enough for antibodies to get produced as well as microfilariae. At this point, your dog’s veterinarian can detect the disease through a blood test. You may notice mild lingering cough, fatigue, weight loss, reluctance to exercise, and decreased appetite.
At this stage of the disease, the symptoms are noticeable, and you may begin to see your dog’s health deteriorating. The symptoms you will observe include trouble breathing, reluctance to play, fatigue, swollen belly, or tummy, and sometimes your dog may even cough blood.
By this stage, your vet can trace the worms in the large vessels and heart using X-rays.
At stage four, the symptoms of stage three become more severe and visible. The disease may have had a significant impact on your dog to the point that you can notice your dog is ill. The tests may reveal the disease’s impact through abnormal sounds from your dog’s lungs, heart, and liver. At this stage, even with treatment, the condition may still affect your dog’s health in the long term.
It would be best if you took your dog to the vet at least once a year for diagnosis and testing of heartworm disease. Once the infection gets detected, your veterinarian can administer medicines. The heartworm medications are quite effective but only when administered correctly.
Learn more about treating heartworm disease in dogs, contact Bergen County Veterinary Center in Waldwick, NJ at 201-205-2500 to book an appointment.