Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs

Identifying early symptoms of heartworms is key to getting proper treatment started before the infestation gets too severe. An older dogs weakened immune system makes it harder for them to fight off infections and that also goes for dealing with heartworms. Early detect will be a great benefit for your old dogs recovery.

Early Hearworm Symptoms:

  • Easily tires - have you noticed any reduction in the energy level of your dog - does he get fatigued quicker?

  • Not interested in exercise - when a dog is not excited for a walk or a run around the yard there could be an underlining reason.

  • Soft deep cough - Don't over look the slightest cough - take it seriously and have your dog checked.

Severe Symptoms of Heartworms:

  • Weight loss - dogs are not usually one for missing meals so a reduction in his appetite can be a sign for you to have him checked out.

  • Breathing difficulty - after slight exercise if you notice your dog is breathing rapidly sounding like he's gasping for air.

  • Harder Cough - a deeper cough that doesn't seem to be getting better or going away

Advanced Symtoms of Heartworms:

  • Severe weight loss - ribs become visible - seem to be sticking out

  • Coughing up blood

  • Fainting

  • Jaundice - a yellowing of tissue - visible in the whites of the eyes and also in there gums. This will indicate a problem with the liver.

Knowing the symtoms of heartworms can help you make an educated decision on how best to care for your old dog. Heartworm prevention products are the best way to control heartworms, will usually require a prescription and can found at 1-800 PetMeds icon


Heartworm Treatment

Before heartworms can be treated your dog needs to be evaluated for good heart, liver, and kidney function to ensure they can survive the treatment. The eradication process can be taxing on organ function.


Heartworm Treatment Step 1 - Young Worms:

  • Eliminate young worms. This keeps treatment ahead of the development of the heartworms.

  • Attaching the immature worms first reduces the number of adult worms that will have be taken care of in step2

  • Less dying adult worms at one time reduces the risk to your dog.
Using a monthly heartworm ivermectin-preventive product such as can kill the immature worms. The American Heartworm Society recommends using a preventive 1-3 months prior to treating the adult worms. This waiting time is a recommended guideline and you should make your call based on your dog's condition. After all the adult worms are the cause of the disease.

Heartworm Treatment Step 2 - Adult Worms:

  • Can be done in two treatments but some recommend 3 so there is a more gradual killing of the adult worms.

  • Injections are given into the lower back muscles - Comfort your dog afterwards as this is a painful injection and could make your dog sore.

  • A reaction of some sort occurs in roughly 30% of the dogs treated

  • When following the two dose treatment a second shot will be given the next day on the other side of the back.

  • When following the three dose treatment after the first treatment you will wait a month before having the two doses in a 24 hour period.

After treatment is completed you will need to keep your dog calm for about a month. It is important to let heart rest during recovery.
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HeartWorm Facts:

  • Canine heartworm disease develops when a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying microscopic heartworm larvae (juvenile worms) of a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis.

  • Giving heartworm medication to a heartworm positive dog can cause serious side effects. These include respiratory distress, shock and possibly death. Have your dog tested before starting any heartworm medication.

  • Although dogs are natural hosts for heartworm, cats can also contract this disease. Talk to your vet if you think your cat is at risk!

  • All dogs regardless of their age, sex, or habitat are susceptible to heartworm infection.

  • Adult heartworms, about six inches long, live in the heart and large blood vessels. These adult male and female worms produce thousands of microscopic baby worms. Baby heartworms do not grow up in the dog where they were born. If they did, the dog would quickly die and so would the heartworms.

  • Your veterinarian can perform a blood test to determine whether your pet has heartworms. A blood sample is tested for the antigens (proteins) produced by adult heartworms.

  • Surgical removal of the adult heartworms is an option in advanced cases.


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