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Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm in Pets

The American Heartworm Society encourages pet parents to maintain heartworm prevention. This parasite is a silent killer. Research reveals that the signs of this disease often become noticeable when the worms mature inside your pet’s body. This often takes about six months after the worms enter your pet’s body. Understanding the signs and symptoms of heartworm in pets can motivate you to start preventive measures. Here are the details:


Your pet may suddenly lose interest in being active. This may be a sign of heartworm disease. As this condition worsens, your pet may not tolerate any level of physical activity at all. Even walking a little may exhaust your pet.

Weight Loss

Heartworm disease spreads undetected inside your pet. The heartworms take in the nutrients that your pet takes in. Eating a tiny snack and enjoying it can be too taxing. That is why this could result in dramatic weight loss.

Relentless Coughing

Coughing because of heartworm disease is persistent and dry. The early stage of heartworm disease produces a cough that may be triggered by the smallest amount of physical activity. This happens because the heartworms are traveling to your pet’s lungs. These parasites cause discomfort and block air passages.

Bulging Ribs

Your pet’s chest may look like it is protruding. The bulging look may worsen because of weight loss. This appearance may be caused by fluid buildup as a reaction to the presence of the parasite. The noticeable symptoms will occur when the heartworms mature. They often surface with other complications.

Difficulty Breathing

Coughing may happen with an asthma attack as well. The blood vessels in your pet’s lungs fill with fluid. This makes it difficult for the lungs to oxygenate the blood.

Late-stage Symptoms

During this stage, your pet will experience lethargy, a lack of appetite, and a dry cough. These symptoms will be worse than those in the early stages. More complications may emerge during this time. Your pet’s symptoms consist of a heart murmur, abnormal sounds in the lungs, and a large liver.

An overwhelming number of heartworms can block the flow of blood to and from the heart. Your pet will later go into shock and collapse. This is called the vena cava or caval syndrome. Among the symptoms of this syndrome are coffee-colored urine, labored breathing, and pale gums. The veterinarian will need to remove the heartworms causing the blockage. Few pets survive this procedure.

Early Treatment

Spotting your pet’s heartworm problem early is important. Your veterinarian will start the process of killing immature and adult heartworms. Keeping the side effects minimal is one of the goals in treating the early stages of this disease. The process can be costly, long, and painful. There is no guarantee that your pet will be rid of heartworms after the treatment. That is why prevention is crucial.

Catching the early signs and symptoms of heartworm may increase your pet’s recovery, but prevention is ideal. At Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital, we help pet parents care for their fur kids with safe and proven treatments. Feel free to bring your pet to our facility in Pearland, Texas, for an in-person consultation. Please call 281-997-1426 to set up an appointment or learn more about our heartworm prevention and treatment packages. Learn more about the standards and guidelines that Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital follows:

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