Heartworm is a potentially fatal parasite in dogs that is contracted through mosquito bites. Since heartworm has been reported in all 50 states, it’s prevalent no matter where you live. Essentially, if there are mosquitoes, there is the risk of heartworm, and a dog can take months to show noticeable signs of heartworm in the first place. Learn how to tell if your dog has heartworm as soon as you can, so you can best protect your dog in the future.
A dog can only get heartworm through an infected mosquito, and it can take almost a year for the larvae in the mosquito bite to mature into full-grown worms, which embed themselves in the lungs, heart, and blood vessels of the dog. As larvae, the heartworms will nest inside the lungs, which is when your dog will often show symptoms of heartworm in the form of wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, weight loss, and being unable to move around without having to lie down often (fatigue). Unfortunately, there are usually no symptoms until the worms have already matured and spread throughout the dog’s system.
In advanced stages, the dog will pass out often from too much blood rushing into its brain as the worms crowd its lungs and heart. The disease is costly to treat and fatal if left alone, so catching the disease early is your best bet at both treatment of the illness and survival for the dog.
If you notice anything in your dog that seems abnormal with its breathing, such as breathing heavily, coughing, a noise coming from its chest, not exercising as much and having to breathe a lot, heavy panting,or fainting, get your dog to a vet quickly to be examined for heartworm. The sooner you can get your dog treatment the better outcome you will have, and the better chance you have of your dog’s survival.