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Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

There are a lot of different parasites that can affect our pets. However, there is arguably one that is more dangerous for dogs than any other – Heartworms. Heartworm disease occurs when an animal becomes infected with a parasitic worm called heartworm. Heartworms are spread through the bite of mosquitos carrying the microfilariae (immature heartworms). When a mosquito eats, the microfilariae get transferred into the host’s blood, where they gradually migrate to the blood vessels surrounding their lungs and heart. It takes around 6 months for heartworms to mature, during which time they can grow to around 12 inches in length. Once they are mature, they can also reproduce, leading to an entire population living inside your pet. A bad infestation could see as many as 100 or more heartworms living inside your pet.


If left untreated, the heartworms will start to compromise healthy blood flow. This can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms that may not be all that obvious, but without prompt action, could potentially be fatal.


What are The Most Common Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease takes time to develop. This is because it takes time for the heartworms to mature and start to cause problems for your pet. Unfortunately, this often means that the disease had advanced beyond the earliest stages before it is diagnosed. Some of the common signs and symptoms of heartworm disease include:


  • A mild, persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of stamina or becoming more lethargic
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Becoming tired after light exercise
  • Swelling of the abdomen


Should you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that your pet may have heartworm disease, it is crucial that you contact your vet in El Paso TX at Vista Hills Animal Hospital as soon as possible. Many vets recommend annual heartworm testing as part of your pet’s regular preventative care.


How Can You Best Prevent Heartworm Disease in Your Pet?

There are a wide variety of preventative treatments available for heartworm disease and your pet can be started on one from as early as six weeks old.  There are a variety of preventatives that are available for your pet from contracting the disease. If your pet hasn’t had any heartworm medication for more than 6 months, they will first need to undergo heartworm testing to ensure that they aren’t already affected. Your veterinarian at Vista Hills Animal Hospital will be happy to advise you which heartworm preventative will be the most suitable for your pet.


It is very important to stay on top of your pet’s preventative medication. Even during winter months when there are significantly less mosquitoes, there is still an element of risk as some mosquitos have been shown to survive in colder temperatures. Administration of regular preventatives is the best way to keep your pet safe.


To learn more about the signs and symptoms of heartworm disease, contact Vista Hills Animal Hospital in El Paso, TX at (915) 592-5867 with any questions or to schedule an appointment today!

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