Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs
Heartworm disease is a serious condition spread by mosquitoes that feed on the blood of your pet. Parasitic worms make their way into the bloodstream and spread to the heart, lungs, and pulmonary blood vessels and artery, where they live and cause damaging inflammation. This causes a number of serious problems, such as heart failure and lung disease. Heartworms thrive in dogs, although a cat may also become infected. It is a condition that can be prevented, but when a pet is not properly protected or tested, they are susceptible to infection. If this happens, it is important that pet owners recognize heartworm symptoms in dogs and seek treatment as soon as possible. This means that you must know what the symptoms are during the various stages of infection.
Onset and Severity of Symptoms
When it comes to the onset of heartworm symptoms, dog owners should understand that activity levels play an important role. Active dogs tend to develop obvious symptoms sooner than more sedentary animals. The number of worms in the dog’s system also affects the onset and severity of heartworm symptoms. In most cases, symptoms do not appear until there are more than 25 of the parasites present. The higher the number of worms, the more apparent the symptoms are.
The early stage of heartworm disease is also referred to as Class I heartworm disease. During this stage, some dogs may have a very slight cough, but most pets will not have any noticeable symptoms. Even tests such as X-rays of the chest and bloodwork may come back normal. As a result, dog owners are often unaware of the problem during this first stage.
Class II Symptoms
In the second stage of the disease, heartworm symptoms in dogs become noticeable. At this time, a majority of infected dogs will develop an occasional cough that lingers. Dogs may also begin to have difficulty during exercise or playtime. In some cases, they may also develop a fever.
Class III Symptoms
By the third stage, an infected dog’s condition is considered severe. A sick dog will experience difficulty breathing even when not engaged in physical activities, and it may also begin to show signs of lethargy in general. Losses of appetite and body weight are both symptoms that one’s dog may display, as is a distended belly. Coughing is more frequent and severe, and it may produce blood. Anemia and high blood pressure in the arteries of the lung and heart, also known as pulmonary hypertension, are also symptoms of heartworm disease at this stage.
Class IV Symptoms
If a dog is untreated and reaches this fourth stage, the symptoms reflect the massive amount of blockage and the severity of the situation. This is an extreme stage of the disease that is often associated with a condition known as caval syndrome, which frequently ends in death; however, not all untreated dogs develop this condition. Symptoms at this time include difficulty breathing and temporary episodes of lost consciousness caused by a lack of blood flowing to the brain. Additional symptoms include very dark urine, labored breathing, and pale gums.
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