Signs, Symptoms & Implications of Heartworm Disease
One of the most unnerving parts about Heartworm Disease is that your pet may show NO SIGNS at all of being ill. It is often a silent killer – or only becomes apparent in the very late stages of the disease. This is why ROUTINE TESTING using the “4DX Snap Test” is so important. This test – which is a simple, routine blood test screens for Tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichia, Lyme & Anaplasma, as well as Heartworm Disease (antigen test). In Canada, most veterinarians recommend this test be performed once a year. If your risk factor is very high (see Assessing Your Dog’s Risk), I recommend running this test every 6 months. The earlier this disease is caught, the more quickly it can be treated. If your dog tests positive for Heartworm, the next step is to have your vet run a Microfilariae or “heatworm filter” test to determine the level of microfilariae (baby worms) present. This will give you a better idea of the severity of the disease in your dog.
Signs & Symptoms To Watch For:
- Coughing and shortness of breath
- Decreased appetite and energy level
- Weight loss
- Swollen belly
- Dark urine – brownish red in colour*
- Laboured breathing*
- Pale gums*
*These symptoms indicate heart failure – formally called “Caval Syndrome”. This means your dog is in advanced heartworm stage and is suffering cardiovascular collapse. In this case, surgery is required to physically remove the worm blockage from your dog’s heart. Having lived through this traumatic medical emergency, I know the seriousness of Heartworm Disease and the threat it poses to a dog’s life. I do not take this disease lightly! Having said that, early detection and treatment can prevent your dog from getting to this stage of the disease. Being PROACTIVE is the key!
The Implications of HW Disease
As mentioned above, Heartworm Disease is fatal if not treated. Dogs who are not on any type of preventative* and dogs who are not routinely tested can suffer from HW Disease undetected until it is in the advanced stages. In addition to this disease being life-threatening, it can also leave lasting damage to your dog’s overall health. Damage to the heart, lungs and vital organs can be caused from prolonged stress and cannot always be reversed through treatment.
As well as the physical damage, Heartworm Disease can have a serious emotional toll on your dog as well. Dogs with Heartworm Disease should be put on strict exercise restriction as soon as it is detected and for 6-8 weeks AFTER treatment is completed. Your pet’s life is more at risk during treatment if they are physically active, as worms break down and die off, they can clump together and create a blockage in the heart or lungs and if your pet is active, the risk for this is increased. It is a long journey for your pet to be on crate rest for the duration of treatment and afterwards – and it can have a devastating effect on their mental health. I explain more on the treatment page, how this risk is minimized by using the natural protocol!
*The natural protocol can also be used as a preventative!