Heartworm is a dangerous parasite and its infestation in dogs can be life-threatening. Prevention is much easier than cure here, so it’s best to use effective dewormers all year round.
Canine heartworm transmitted by infected mosquitoes causes permanent damage to the lungs, heart and blood vessels, leading to serious health problems and reducing your pet’s quality of life. It is a difficult and expensive disease to treat. Only early detection enables effective treatment. Prevention of heartworm is therefore the best solution. Find out how to recognise the symptoms of heartworm infection.
Heartworm in dogs – signs of infection
Heartworm infection in a dog is diagnosed by a blood test or a heart echo performed at a veterinarian, among other things. Several symptoms may indicate the presence of heartworm:
Your dog may cough periodically, especially after major exercise. However, there is no need to panic as coughing may indicate a less serious illness such as kennel cough (bacterial-viral inflammation of the upper respiratory tract). Heartworm can only be ruled out by a visit to the vet.
Numbness or decrease in activity
Because heartworm in dogs attacks the heart and lungs, infection with heartworm can make typical activities such as walking or playing a lot of effort for your pet. If you notice a decrease in your pet’s performance or activity, take him to the vet.
Lack of appetite or weight loss
As in humans, significant and sudden emaciation or loss of appetite can signal a serious health problem. These symptoms usually occur as the parasite matures.
A pet guardian can’t determine heart failure in a dog on their own. This can only be done by a veterinarian. He or she will detect symptoms such as a heart murmur or ascites (the presence of fluid in the abdominal cavity), make a diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Other characteristic symptoms of heartworm include blood in the dog’s urine, fainting, anaemia, high blood pressure or a fast heartbeat.
Death due to heartworm infection
Heartworm infection can be mild and asymptomatic, characterised only by a slight cough. However, sometimes the disease has a very severe course, in which congestive heart failure, respiratory distress, syncope and even death can occur. Complications associated with dirofilariasis, known as caval syndrome, lead to shock-like symptoms and sudden death.
If you suspect your dog has heartworm, act quickly
Dirofilariosis in the dog is a serious and rapidly progressive disease. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance that your pet will avoid long-term health complications. If you suspect your dog has been affected by heartworm, take him to the vet as soon as possible for a blood test.
The best defence against this dangerous parasite is the prevention of potential invasion. To avoid heartworm altogether, you should give your dog regular dewormers. The simplest solution is an easy-to-use spot-on droplet that protects against heartworm, as well as fleas and intestinal parasites.
The dewormer kills the nematode larvae that the dog has caught through a mosquito bite before they reach maturity. Most available dewormers kill the nematode larvae that have infested the dog within 30 days of the last treatment. These agents are then metabolised by the body and excreted, so do not provide lasting effects. Regular monthly use of a dewormer provides complete protection against heartworms.