Signs Your Dog May Have Heartworms

Signs Your Dog May Have Heartworms

Heartworms are a serious disease and, if left untreated, could cause an animal to suffer. They affect every dog differently, but why risk it when you can prevent it! In this blog, we are going to go over what heartworms are and some of the signs you'll see if your dog gets them.

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are parasitic worms called Dirofilaria immitis (diro·fi·lar·ia im·mi·tis) and are spread by mosquitos. They are transmitted from infected dogs to healthy dogs. So it’s important to get your dog tested every year. Even if a pet is dominantly indoors, they are still at risk for heartworms and need preventative medicine. Heartworms are prevalent in all areas, no matter where you may live. No place is totally safe or free from these parasites.


1. Coughing

Dogs can cough for many reasons: if they eat or drink too fast, if they are older, in response to allergies, or if they have other illnesses such as kennel cough. If you notice your dog coughing more often, it may be time to visit your veterinarian because it could be due to heartworms.

2. Lack of Energy

If it’s summertime, your dog may not want to play as much because of the heat. If they’ve already had a long day, dogs need time to recover just like humans do. Dogs may even show a lack of energy when they get shots, but heartworms can cause them not to be as energetic as well. Monitor their highs and lows to see if it’s normal tiredness or if it lingers.

3. Weight Loss

Along with a lack of energy, your dog's eating habits could be affected as heartworms become more serious. It will begin with a loss of appetite, which could, in turn, lead to your dog losing some weight. Make sure your dog isn’t just tired of their current food or other reasons they may not want to eat.

4. Difficulty Breathing

This symptom and the next ones are signs of heartworms getting worse. Difficulty breathing is not something to take lightly. It can be caused by a blockage or injury. Other lung, throat, or mouth diseases can also make breathing difficult. But this is especially true for heartworm disease.

5. Bulging Ribs and Enlarged Liver

Owners may notice the ribs of their dog begin to bulge as a result of the previous symptom of weight loss. This could also be due to fluid buildup from the parasites. The severity of an enlarged liver can be determined by x-rays and helped with proper treatment or surgery. Talk to your vet about how to best help your dog at this stage.

6. Abnormal Sounds

Your vet can detect sounds in your dog’s lungs or hear if they have heart murmurs. Medication and special treatment can be used to help. Heartworms will start to damage a dog’s vital organs if left continually untreated.


Along with getting your dog tested yearly, giving them heartworm preventives monthly will help keep those parasites away! The dosage of heartworm medicine is based on body weight, so as your dog grows (if you start them on preventative medicine early on), make sure to keep up with their weight so that they are covered. Dogs can be started on heartworm prevention as early as seven months old. If you suspect your dog has heartworms, contact your vet immediately.

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