Stages & Symptoms of Canine Heartworms
Symptoms of heartworm may include loss of appetite, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weight loss, fever, dyspnea (difficult, labored breathing, shortness of breath), coughing, weakness, dull dry coat, and hemorrhage.
In the beginning stage of heartworm disease symptoms can be quite mild, if left untreated heartworm disease can potentially become fatal. In the early stage of heartworm disease it may go undected until time for yearly testing, in some cases it may be overlooked then. During the first stage of heartworm disease, there may be no symptoms present, this is why heartworms are difficult to diagnose without testing.
Be mindful of your dog's typical behavior, so that potential symptoms like a reluctance to exercise or extended lethargy don't get overlooked. The most observable heartworm disease symptom is the cough that does not go away, and progressively becomes worse. As the disease progresses symptoms will escalate and become more noticeable.
Heartworm disease is divided up into four stages. The only noticeable symptom in the first two stage may be a mild cough. As the disease progresses this cough becomes more pronounced. Without treatment, the symptoms become increasingly severe, having a negative effect on the dog's heart and lungs. Below is a brief description of each stage of heartworm disease symptoms:
This stage of the disease often shows no symptoms at all, but you may notice a slight cough. Your dog will likely appear to be the healthy, happy pup he or she has always been. Even a physical exam will likely not show that your dog has heartworms. Many times in this early stage even a blood test will come back negative.
As the disease progresses into this stage you may notice what is considered moderate symptoms. Your dog may exhibit a lingering cough and/or may become fatigued after exercise. The symptoms may be more noticeable at this point and give cause for concern. Testing will likely show a positive result at this time.
At this stage the disease is having a marked impact on your dog's health, symptoms are becoming more severe and noticeable. Your dog's cough will likely be more prominate, he or she will tire more easily after exercise or may not want to excercise at all; they may also have difficulty breathing at this stage. They may also cough up blood. At this stage the damage from the disease will be evident on exrays.
In stage 4 with the symptoms worsening, they will ve very visible. Testing may reveal abnormal lung sounds, and enlarged liver and heart noises. If left untreated at this stage, it can be fatal.
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