Vet Blog

What Are the First Signs of Heartworms?

April 30, 2019

Heartworms are a fairly common type of parasite that is carried from pet to pet by mosquitos.

These mosquitos transfer heartworm larvae into the bloodstream of their next meal. Eventually, these larvae turn into adult worms that are up to 12 inches long and can live for up to 7 years. These worms accumulate inside your pet's heart, lungs, and neighboring blood vessels, reproducing consistently until their numbers - your pet's 'worm burden' - reaches into the hundreds. Their sheer volume compromises and eventually blocks blood flow, clogs up the heart and lungs, and is ultimately fatal unless treated.

Many owners think that by providing proper prevention from heartworms for their pets, they don't need to understand the symptoms of heartworm infection. However, errors with administration and the timing of doses of preventative medications do occur. As such, it is very valuable to be knowledgeable about the symptoms of a heartworm infection so that you can get the necessary treatment for your pet quickly should the need arise.

Heartworm Symptoms Don't Become Obvious Immediately

One of the biggest mistakes made by inexperienced pet owners is believing that their pet will show signs of being infected with heartworms within a few days of being bitten. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. It takes around six months for immature heartworms, called microfilaria, to mature into adults and for symptoms of the infection to become apparent. Unfortunately, this means that your dog could appear 100% healthy while still being affected by heartworms, with some damage likely already being done to his heart and lungs.

Symptoms of Heartworms

Animals have a natural predisposition to try and mask any illness they have so that they don't appear weak or vulnerable. Nevertheless, it is impossible for them to hide symptoms of a heartworm infection forever. Common indicators of heartworm infection are as follows:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast breathing with short, shallow breaths
  • A dry, persistent cough
  • Wheezing and coughing after exercise or playing
  • Fainting after exercise or playing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • A bulging chest or abdomen occurs due to inflammation and an accumulation of fluid
  • Lethargy
  • Unwillingness to participate in exercise or games

    If your pet is unfortunate enough to experience heartworms that have migrated to other parts of his body, such as her eyes and brain, he might also experience symptoms including:
  • Seizures
  • Blindness
  • Confusion and disorientation

It is important to recognize that each animal is completely different. While one dog may experience some symptoms, another may have others. If you suspect that your pet has heartworms, you should arrange to get him checked out by your Gainesville veterinarians as soon as you can.

Still confused about heartworms? Concerned that your pet might be showing signs of heartworms and would like to have him assessed by a professional veterinary team? Get in touch with our animal hospital in Gainesville, FL today by calling (352) 372-8387.

Don't have time to bring your fur baby in for a visit? Ask us about our drop off services. Let your pet join our team for the day for extra cuddles and love and pick them up at your convenience! Ready to book? Book your drop-off appointment now!