Jun. 07.2021 | Updated: September 16, 2021

How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Heartworms: the Most Common Signs and Possible Treatment

can dogs cough up heartworms

Heartworms in dogs are not a myth, but a reality. If you do not know the possible signs and symptoms of heartworms and do not start treatment at the time, the consequences can be unfavorable. Therefore, there is a replenishment in our Health section today. We will tell you what it is, what symptoms should be addressed first, and what to do next. Be sure to read to the end!

How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Heartworms?

Before looking for the symptoms of a disease, you need to understand the very essence of it. After all, many of the symptoms are similar and can easily be attributed to a completely different problem than your dog’s. Therefore, before talking about the most common signs your dog may have heartworms, let’s discuss equally important issues that relate to this topic.

How Does Heartworm Affect Dogs?

The disease has been hidden for a long time. This period usually takes several years before the dog shows clinical signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed mainly in dogs between two and eight years of age. The disease is rare in dogs less than one year old because it takes five to seven months to develop after infection. Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are visible, the disease is in a very serious stage. Adult heartworms cause disease by blocking the heart and large blood vessels leading from the heart. Effects of heartworms influence to interfere with the normal functioning of the valves in the heart. By clogging the main blood vessel, the blood supply to other organs of the body decreases, especially the blood flow to the lungs, liver, and kidneys deteriorates, which leads to disruptions in the work of these organs. One of the most common side effects of heartworms is congestive heart failure with swelling in the extremities and an increase in abdominal volume.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Heartworms?

Adult heartworms can live up to five years, during which time the female worm produces millions of offspring. However, how do they get there initially? The life cycle of heart parasites is complex because the parasite requires the mosquito to be an intermediate host. About 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms. The life cycle begins when a female mosquito bites an infected dog. The parasites develop further within 10 to 30 days in the gut of the mosquito and then migrate into its mouth apparatus. At this stage, they are infected larvae and can complete their maturation when they enter the dog’s body. Infected larvae enter the dog’s body after being bitten by a mosquito. The parasites migrate into the bloodstream and enter the heart and adjacent large blood vessels. After maturation, they mate and produce a huge number of offspring within 6-7 months.

What Are The Symptoms Of Heartworms In A Dog?

how does heartworm affect dogs

This parasite is often called the silent killer because it can take months for your dog to show symptoms. In the early stages of infection, most dogs show little to no signs, and the more the disease progresses, the more likely they are to show obvious signs. Pay attention to the warning signs. By the way, symptoms of heartworms in puppies are a rare thing, because it is common in elder dogs. It is customary to distinguish four stages of manifestation of different symptoms.

  1. You may not notice any symptoms, but if you do, it’s just a mild cough.
  2. The main symptoms are already showing up here. You may notice that your dog fatigued more quickly after exercise or began to cough periodically.
  3. Canine heartworm symptoms become more obvious and involve persistent coughing. Your dog gets tired even with a little exercise. Difficulty breathing is also noted.
  4. At this stage, there is a large accumulation of worms that block the return of blood flow to the dog’s heart. Therefore, immediate surgery is required. Without surgery, stage 4 is fatal. It is extremely important to determine the exact stage of the development of the disease in the pet in order to exclude the development of a worse outcome.

Dry Cough

Your dog may cough occasionally, especially after being overly active. Sometimes, these coughing fits can end in fainting, even after light exercise. Can dogs cough up heartworms? From the outside, it seems that the dog is really trying to cough up and spit something out but this is impossible.

Lethargy or Apathy

Since the worm affects the heart and lungs, you may notice that the pet walks less and practically does not play. Dogs with heartworms feel weaker and find it difficult to stay active even during low energy activity. It is one of the early signs of heartworms in dogs.

Weight loss and loss of appetite

As in humans, significant and sudden weight loss or loss of appetite can signal a serious health problem.

Rapid Breathing

Breathing problems can also occur when worms parasitize your dog’s lungs When you cough, the area around the blood vessels in the lungs begins to retain fluid, making it difficult for your dog to absorb oxygen, causing it to breathe more quickly.

Swollen Breasts

Swollen, raised, or swollen breasts are usually one of the signs of heartworms in older dogs This symptom is usually caused by weight loss, anorexia, and fluid retention.

Allergic Reaction

This symptom is more common in cats but dogs can sometimes show asthma symptoms similar to allergic reactions to heartworm infections.


When a large number of heartworms enter the heart and cause a blockage of blood flow, called vena cava syndrome or vena cava syndrome, fainting occurs. The failure is usually associated with shock and the destruction of red blood cells. Your dog can die within a few days.

By the way, the same signs of heartworms in small dogs.

How Can Vet Diagnose a Heartworm in My Dog?

effects of heartworms

In most cases, one or a series of simple blood tests will diagnose the presence of heartworms in your dog’s body. Further diagnostic tests are needed to determine if the dog can be safely treated. The number of parasites detected gives a general indication of the severity of the infection. Approximately 20% of affected dogs do not show heartworm positive symptoms. The fact is that their immune system has acquired the ability to destroy parasites. In addition, there are also similar blood parasites that are quite common in dogs that are difficult to distinguish from heartworms.

How to Treat My Dog?

Treatment of dogs is complex and complex. An individual approach is used. Treatment is aimed at the destruction of adults, microfilariae, removal of intoxication, dehydration, improvement of rheological properties of blood, prevention of thrombosis, autoimmune reactions. Strict rest is recommended up to the cage content. It is important in treatment to prevent the further spread of the disease. Also, to observe the symptoms of heartworms in dogs in the future, take prevention as a habit. Talk to your veterinarian about which medication is best for your pet.What can heartworms do to dogs? It all starts with the usual fatigue and cough and may end with death. Therefore, do not try to treat your pet on your own, see a specialist. We also want to offer you some useful articles about the health of your four-legged friend. Read about Home Remedies for Kennel Cough and UTI in dogs. Thank you and see you soon!

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