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A Matter Of Heart: 4 Ways To Identify Heartworm Disease

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If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, chances are good that it's been bit by at least one mosquito. That might not seem like a serious problem, but it actually is. Every time your dog gets bit by a mosquito, their risk of heartworm disease increases. Heartworms can be deadly for your dog, especially if the problem isn't treated quickly enough. Unfortunately, heartworm disease is difficult to identify, especially during the early stages. The best way to identify heartworm disease is to watch for the warning signs listed below. If your dog exhibits any of the warning signs described here, visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Unexplained Weight Loss

If your dog has developed heartworm disease, you may notice that they're not as active as they are usually. That's because heartworm disease can cause your dog to become weak and lethargic. In the beginning stages, you may think that your dog is just going through a phase. But, as the weakness increases, you'll also notice that your dog is losing weight. That's because they no longer have the energy to maintain a healthy diet. Also, because your dog is no longer as active as they were, they may lose muscle mass, which will also make your dog look thinner. If your dog experiences unexplained weight loss, see a veterinarian immediately. 

Chronic Dry Cough

If your dog has developed a cough, it may not be anything to worry about. Dogs can develop coughs for a variety of reasons. Your dog could have something stuck in their throat. Or, they could have a sinus issue that's causing throat irritation. Watch the cough for a few days. If it goes away, you have nothing to worry about. But, if they develop a persistent dry cough, and the cough gets worse with physical activity, schedule a veterinary visit right away. A persistent dry cough is a sign of heartworm disease. 

Sudden Breathing Difficulties

If your dog seems to be having a hard time breathing, take a closer look. Heartworm disease can make the lungs work harder to oxygenate blood. As a result, your dog may not be able to get the oxygen they need to breathe properly. If your dog is experiencing breathing difficulty, seek medical help as soon as you can. This is especially important if your dog has breathing difficulties combined with a dry cough. 

Enlarged Rib Cage

If you think your dog has heartworm disease, feel its rib cage. In the advanced stages of the disease, your dog's lungs will fill with fluid. The fluid buildup will cause the lungs to expand, which will also cause your dog's rib cage to bulge. If you can feel bulging along your dog's rib cage, seek immediate veterinary care. Click here to learn more about veterinarians