Heartworm disease affects millions of pets each year, but that doesn’t mean it’s something to be shrugged off. In fact, heartworm can become extremely serious in a short amount of time. That’s why prevention and early detection are key. While there are canine heartworm antigen test kits you can easily use at home, it’s recommended that you do everything you can to prevent your dog or cat from contracting heartworm. But to cover your bases, it’s important that you learn to recognize what few signs there are.
Signs of Heartworm in Dogs
Many dogs show no symptoms of heartworm in the early stages. Typically, symptoms develop as the disease progresses. Some of the symptoms that owners may notice include:
- Mild, lingering cough
- Fatigue after light activity or reluctance to exercise
- Lowered appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen belly (due to excess fluid)
- Sudden cardiovascular problems
- Labored breathing
- Pale gums
- Dark-colored urine
By the time these more obvious, serious symptoms occur, heartworm will have progressed significantly. Immediate medical attention is necessary for survival.
Signs of Heartworm in Cats
You might think cats can’t get heartworm, but they absolutely can. It’s actually much worse for cats because while there are preventative methods, there are no treatments for when a cat is positively diagnosed. However, you can and should have heartworm tests performed on your cat(s) every year to ensure they stay safe. The symptoms cats experience may be even more subtle — or sometimes, more extreme — than what dogs show. These signs may include:
- Asthma attacks
- Sporadic vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Walking difficulties
- Seizures or fainting
- Bloated abdomen
- Sudden collapse or death
Sadly, for both these cats and their owners, they may not exhibit any of these symptoms until the last on this list. Cats tend to hide their pain even more than dogs do, which makes it tough for humans to recognize when their kitty isn’t well.
By the time many pets start showing obvious symptoms, it may be too late. You can do your part by giving your pet a heartworm preventative and giving them a heartworm test on an annual basis. To find out more about performing a cat or dog heartworm test at home, contact your veterinarian. And be sure to bring them in for their annual check-ups or at the first sign of abnormal behavior or pain.