4 Progressive Stages of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Clinical diagnostics laboratory

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially deadly disease in pets caused by mosquito bites. Why is it that serious? Well, this disease can result in severe organ damage, lung complications, heart failure, and even death in pets. While heartworm disease affects other pets like ferrets and cats, dogs are the definitive hosts for this condition. This means that worms will undergo the complete reproduction cycle while living inside an infected dog. Most wild animals like coyotes, foxes, wolves, sea lions among others are considered potential carriers of heartworm disease.

Often, many dog owners overlook evident signs and symptoms of canine heartworm, posing the risk of advanced infection. A mild cough and exercise intolerance of stage one progress into a persistent cough and possibly heart or lung failure in advanced stages. As the phases progress, the symptoms also become more disruptive and severe. Although heartworm symptoms can be subtle and prove difficult to detect, it is recommended that you give your dog preventative medicine to combat possible heartworm infection. Better yet, an annual heartworm test is also a brilliant idea to protect your canine friend.

During a veterinary visit, the vet will use canine heartworm antigen test kit to ascertain the infection and provide corrective measures. However, this test is limited to dogs above 7 months only.

While you are thinking of taking you pet to a vet doctor, here are 5 phases of heartworm disease in dogs.

Asymptomatic/No Signs Stage
Typically, there are no physical signs of heartworm infection during the early stages. However, after few days, the parasite inside the circulatory system manifest and start to damage the arteries. The pet tries to fight off the parasite through the immune cells to no avail. This is when the inflammatory process begins. Without treatment, the symptoms are likely to develop.

Coughing Stage
While the inflammation is taking place, and the infection persists, the lungs are unable to oxygenate the blood effectively.
You may notice nose bleeds on your dog, and excessive inflammation will result in non-infectious pneumonia. Normally, it’s at this stage that most dog owners realize the magnitude of the problem and that urgent attention is needed. If you are unsure of the infection, it’s wise to have a canine heartworm antigen test kit that you can simply test your dog at home.

Chronic Immune Stimulation Stage
Extreme exposure to heartworm parasites will lead to chronic immune stimulation. This stage is likened to a self-detonating bomb in that, excess antibodies are produced to combat the worms, but instead, the protein content in this fighting agents trigger severe inflammation of body tissues. The resultant effect on the kidneys, joints, eyes, and blood vessels of the pet is now visible.

Congitive Heart and Lung Failure
When the dog is left untreated for an extended period of time, the blood vessels plugged with inflammation wounds and numerous worms will hinder the supply of blood around the body. This means that the heart struggles to pump and push the blood through the injured vessels and so the heart is rendered weak. A weak heart will accumulate fluid and drastically change the natural electrical impulses. When this happens, the heart develops a condition called arrhythmias, which translates to sudden death.

Finally, treating heartworm disease can cost you up to $1,000, which is quite expensive as compared to monthly preventative pet care.
It’s also important you have your canine heartworm antigen test kit ready just in case you observe unusual signs on your pet.

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