While the summer may be over, the chances of your dog developing a heartworm infestation are still high. With the right preventative medication for dogs – like Heartgard Plus from PetPlus – owners can take steps to prevent parasites from affecting their canines.
However, it’s important to know the warning signs of heartworm infestations. Here are some facts and symptoms to be wary of.
Learn all the facts
According to Pets Adviser, heartworms can start with a simple mosquito bite. While all dogs are susceptible, outdoor canines may be at higher risk if you enjoy taking your furry friend for long walks through wooded areas during the night. The male parasites are a few inches long and resemble angel hair pasta, while females can be much larger. They’re transferred from dog to dog through mosquitoes that ingest larvae from infected blood streams.
After being bitten, the larval heartworms migrate through the body over a period of six to seven months before arriving at the heart. Once there, they slowly mature into adult worms.
The disease is common in warm areas of the country where mosquitoes are active for most of the year. With each bite, your dog could get closer to a full-blown infection. Therefore, outdoor canines are more likely to develop heartworms than indoor pooches. Unlike tapeworms, which can resemble grains of rice in the stool, heartworms are harder to diagnose and most dogs will only show subtle symptoms until the disease has progressed into a more advanced stage, Cesar’s Way explained.
Keep an eye out
Given the challenge in identifying heartworm symptoms, pet parents have to watch for the common warning signs of the disease. These are the four most prevalent symptoms of an infestation:
- Coughing: If your canine seems to have constant case of soft, dry coughs, this might be a red flag of heartworms. While navigating through the body, the parasites will make their way into the lungs and start multiplying. They can start surrounding the veins and constricting blood flow, causing excessive coughing. This condition might be most noticeable after exercising.
- Exhaustion: Most dogs love to run and play outside, so when your active canine suddenly seems tired more often he may be suffering from heartworms, according to Pets Adviser. The parasites cause symptoms once they reach maturity after roughly six months of gestation. At this point, they can begin to sap dogs of energy as they maneuver through the body.
- Pot belly: While your four-legged friend may have a bit of a tummy, excessive bulging or bloating might be an indication that he’s infected with heartworms. Cesar’s Way explained that the pot bellied appearance is due to an enlarged liver and fluid accumulating in the abdomen. As their bodies attempt to fight the infection, dogs’ hearts and pulmonary arteries swell from obstructions caused by the worms or inflammation.
- Change in appetite: To control their eating habits, most dogs are only fed twice a day by their owners. Depending on their size, they can empty their bowls pretty quickly of any food. Pets Adviser reported that weight loss or change in appetite might be reflective of heartworms. During the disease, even minor physical activities like eating can become difficult and exhausting for sick canines. On the other hand, the parasites can also steal nutrients from dogs, causing them to show an increase in hunger. Any sudden changes in appetite can serve as red flags of heartworms.
Pet owners that sign up for a PetPlus membership are afforded easy access to discounted preventative medications for dogs that can prevent and kill heartworms, like Heartgard Plus. Join today to ensure that your family pooch is safe from these dangerous parasites.