6 Signs Your Dog Has Heartworm Disease

dog heartworm columbus, oh

Heartworm disease is a serious and often life-threatening condition for dogs if left untreated. However, when treated properly, a dog with heartworm disease can go on to live a full and happy life. For this reason, it is important to learn how to recognize signs of heartworm disease before it gets out of hand and ways to prevent it.

In the article below, you’ll find more information about recognizing the signs and symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs. You can use this guide to figure out when it may be time to talk to our Columbus, OH, veterinarians about the risk of this condition in your pet.

Goose Honk Cough

The cough associated with heartworm disease in dogs is often likened to the sound of a goose honking. If your dog tends to get into coughing fits after activity or eating, and if those coughs sound harsh and honk-like, then she may have heartworm disease or another heart related concern. This means a vet appointment for an appropriate diagnosis will be needed.

This type of cough is also associated with kennel cough. Kennel cough is a much less concerning, short-term problem that can be resolved with a round of antibiotics in most instances. Only your vet can tell you for sure which of these issues is affecting your dog.

Inability to Exercise

Dogs who have heartworm disease may feel uncomfortable when they exercise or play too hard. This is because the condition makes it difficult for them to breathe properly and reduces oxygen in the bloodstream as a result. For this reason, dogs may seem unable to exercise, but they may also simply be reluctant to do so.

Inability or unwillingness to exercise can also be related to arthritis and a variety of other canine health problems. Your vet will need to check out your dog thoroughly to determine whether or not she may have heartworm disease.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Like many of the other symptoms on this list, unexplained weight loss can be associated with many health problems in dogs. Heartworm disease, however, typically causes sudden weight loss that doesn’t have any other obvious cause. Cancer is another disease that may cause the same symptom, and it’s important to get to the bottom of this problem as soon as possible.

In cases of sudden, unexplained weight loss, your vet will likely perform blood tests as well as tests of the stool and urine to determine what’s going on with your pet.

Discolored Gums

Dogs who have moderate to advanced heartworm disease may experience blue or gray gums, or very pale gums. This is because their bodies are not getting enough oxygen, and blood is not flowing the way it should, due to the buildup of worms in the heart.

Discolored gums should be treated as a serious symptom and should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If you cannot get your dog to her regular vet in the next day or two, then take her to the emergency vet instead if you notice this symptom.

Swollen Abdomen

As heartworm disease progresses, it eventually leads to fluid retention. This is a sign of late-stage heartworm disease and may indicate that the dog in question does not have much time left to live. Even with treatment, at this point, heartworm disease can cause irreversible damage to a dog’s health.

Fluid retention typically presents itself as swelling of the stomach and abdomen, although other parts of the body may sometimes swell, too. At this stage, your dog may have a lot of trouble breathing even when she is just walking at a normal pace or trying to eat her food.

Coughing Blood

Another symptom of late-stage heartworm disease, coughing blood can indicate that a dog is having a lot of trouble from this condition. Blood in the lungs can occur as the disease worsens, and dogs are likely to have a great deal of difficulty breathing when they reach this point as well.

If your dog is coughing blood with no other symptoms on this list, the cause could be something more acute. However, if she is coughing blood and shows other signs listed here, there’s a good chance she has heartworm disease. Only your vet can tell you for sure.

Reach Out to Our Columbus, OH, Animal Hospital if You Think Your Dog Could Have Heartworm Disease

As you can see, some of the signs of heartworm disease in dogs may mimic other conditions. Therefore, it’s important to get any of these concerning symptoms checked out by a vet as soon as possible. The quicker you get an official diagnosis of heartworm disease, the easier it will be to manage the condition throughout the rest of your pet’s life.

Remember, too, that you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog by giving her a monthly heartworm preventative pill. If your dog already has this condition, the pill is ineffective, but it can be an excellent way to avoid this risk entirely. 

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect dogs and cats. It is caused by parasitic worms that are spread through mosquito bites. Due to its high cost and potential complications, it is always better to prevent heartworm disease rather than treat it. That’s why annual heartworm screenings and preventative measures are crucial.

With a 4dx heartworm screening, not only can we detect heartworm disease, but we can also check for other flea/tick borne illnesses that could harm your pet. We also require this screening to prescribe heartworm prevention to ensure that your pet is on the correct weight range and dosage.

Even during the colder months, there is still a risk of heartworm transmission, which is why year-round prevention is recommended. By taking these preventive measures, you can help ensure your pet stays healthy and free of heartworm disease.

Please let our Columbus, OH, veterinarians know if you have any questions during your dog’s next vet visit. To schedule your pet’s next appointment, give us a call at (614) 451-1204.


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About North Kenny Veterinary Hospital

North Kenny Veterinary Hospital has been serving Columbus, OH pet families with exceptional veterinary medicine since the 1950s. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine as well as low-stress handling to help pets have a more pleasant veterinary experience. We use Fear Free techniques for every cat and dog to help reduce their anxiety and calm their nerves.

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