Heartworm Symptoms

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Heartworm symptoms in dogs can often go undetected in their early stages. It’s a serious condition affecting 1 out of every 100 dogs in the United States annually. This is worrisome for a pet parent. An early diagnosis can help very well to prevent the disease altogether. 

Heartworms in dogs occur when mosquitoes ingest a parasite, ‘Dirofilaria immitis‘ in the dog’s bloodstream. It travels to the heart and lungs and plants there for almost 3 to 6 months. Heartworm symptoms in dogs start exhibiting when the larvae reach the heart arteries and block them. If you feel you’re dog’s infected with heartworm disease, you can contact our expert vets in Ada, Oklahoma. 

Let’s Identify Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

Heartworm symptoms in dogs can be confusing. Sometimes a dog might show minimal symptoms when affected. Here observing their behavioral patterns can help identify the problem. The symptoms you need to observe include- 

  1. Dry Cough 

Persistent dry cough is a sign that the parasite has reached the lung and heart of your dog. This can occur after long walks or even light exercises. As the parasite reaches the lungs it blocks the dog’s airways which facilitates the dry cough. If the blockage is large, the dog can faint due to a lack of oxygen. Heartworm cough in dogs gives early signs of the disease’s presence. 

  1. Lethargy 

Low energy levels are another heartworm symptom in dogs. The invasion of the parasite alerts the immune system thus making your dog sick. This sickness can lead to inactivity and all-time low energy in dogs. They might start avoiding play and walk times and prefer sleeping all day. In this case, take them to the vet for a full-body check-up to rule out any problems. You can visit our professional vets in Ada, and Pauls Valley if you live in Oklahoma!! 

  1. Weight Loss

As the heartworm gets severe, your dog might feel pain even in basic tasks like eating and bathing. Their appetite will also shirk over time. This can cause severe weight loss even in their developing years. You can consult our dog care center in Pauls Valley to get a complete health diagnosis. 

  1. Rapid Breathing 

As the parasites start to grow in your dog’s lung and heart area the heartworm symptoms in dogs can get worse. As air or oxygen now has less space to travel to and fro, the dog will breathe heavily and sometimes even gasp for air. Here the chances of fainting are also high.  

  1. Bulging Chest 

A bulged chest is another observable symptom in dogs. It’s when the chest area protrudes outwards making it appear swollen or inflamed. It’s caused due to fluid buildup and weight loss in dogs. This is a prime symptom. If you observe it, immediately rush your pet to your nearest vet to avoid it from getting super serious. 

  1. Allergic Reactions 

Allergic reactions are more common in cats but some dogs might experience them. This symptom in dogs can irritate their lung walls causing coughing and breathing issues. The allergic reactions can even manifest themselves as asthma attacks. . 

  1. Fainting 

Once the parasite overgrows in the dog’s airways it can lead to blockage known as vena cava syndrome. This can result in fainting. This heartworm symptom in dogs can put their body in a panic and can also lead to death. This stage is quite severe and bringing your pet back from here would be impossible.

Symptoms in Dog Poop

A common myth among pet parents is that heartworms are present in dog poop. Well, this is biologically impossible. Heartworms are present in a dog’s lung and not their gastrointestinal pathway. So even if you keep examining your dog’s poop you won’t find any symptoms lying around in there.  

If you do see worms then they might be tapeworms, roundworms, or any other member of the worm family. In this case our vets at Ada, Oklahoma and help you figure out a treatment plan. 

How to Treat Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

If any of the mentioned heartworm symptoms are present in your dog then you should consult your vet. They would simply use any of these three tests to diagnose the heartworm symptoms in your dog. 

  1. Heartworm Antigen Test- widely used, pocket-friendly dog heartworm test. 
  2. Microfilariae Test- Used to detect the presence of microfilariae larvae in the dog’s body. 
  3. Chest Radiographs (X-Rays)- look at the spread of the larvae in the arteries.

The heartworm symptoms in dogs are treatable in cases of early diagnosis. The vet can examine the larval formation and can use a treatment plan that will help to get rid of it.  

Main Medications for Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

A common medication used for the treatment of heartworm symptoms in dogs is Melarsomine (Immiticide®). It’s an injection-based treatment administered to dogs greatly over a period of 90 days. Our expert vets in Ada, Oklahoma do provide this treatment plan. 

Even though this medication is popular it can only kill adult heartworms. It doesn’t have an effect on small microfilariae or baby larvae. As this drug doesn’t suit every dog, it’s important to consult a vet to help you out!!

Alternative Medications for Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs  

Apart from Melarsomine, we also use these three drugs to heal heartworm symptoms in dogs. Vets use them worldwide. All three drugs have their own set of benefits and complications.

DoxycyclineThis medication affects baby larvae from adulting. Combining this with Melarsomine curbs the development of heartworm symptoms in dogs. 

Ivermectins and MilbemycinsThis medication kills juvenile heartworms that can grow into adults. 

CorticosteroidsThey come in both biological and artificial forms. In medications, we often use the human-made version. They work as anti-inflammatory hormones and help to calm down heartworm symptoms in dogs. They soothe the lung and heart area thus helping with dry cough and rapid breathing.

Treating Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs at Home

Heartworm symptoms in dogs can be treated at home. We can use essential oils like citrus oils, cedar oils, and diatomaceous earth. These home remedies help to control heartworm in dogs. They aren’t an alternative treatment to pharmaceutical medications. Using them with medical treatments can help to ease recovery.

To Conclude

Heartworm symptoms in dogs range from mild to severe. Your treatment approach determines if they would come out of it or cause their death. As a responsible dog parent always keep track of your pup’s health. This will avoid such problems from causing your dog’s departure from you!!   


Q-1 What are the first symptoms of heartworm in dogs?

The very first observable heartworm symptom in dogs is dry cough which can get severe over time. Constant fatigue and tiredness also point to heartworm disease.

Q-2 What are late-stage symptoms of heartworm in dogs?

The heartworm symptoms in dogs that occur in the later stage are very severe. They include a swollen belly, bulged chest with constant fatigue, and asthma attacks. 

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