4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Heartworms?



4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Heartworms?


As a dog owner, you're probably familiar with heartworm symptoms, signs, and risks. But can your dog feel heartworms? In a way, yes. 

Your dog can feel the discomfort that goes hand-in-hand with the heartworms hatching from larvae stages into adulthood. They can also feel them migrating from one spot to another inside their body, specifically if they're affecting your dog's lungs and breathing. More often than not, your dog will develop a consistent cough, and that's the first sign that they're feeling the effects of the heartworms moving around in their veins and organs. 

Do you want to know more about heartworm signs and symptoms? Do you want a better idea of how you can diagnose your dog fast if you think they're suffering from heartworm disease? Read on for more heartworm information, the science behind how your dog can get infected,  and what your dog can feel when it comes to heartworm disease. 


Signs Your Dog Has Heartworms

Your dog is probably giving you all the body language you need to diagnose their heartworm condition. But do you know what to look for? Odds are, if your dog has contracted heartworm disease, the first, resounding sign you should look for is a soft, dry cough that won't quit. 

If your dog has developed a cough that won't seem to go away, that's always a dead giveaway that they might be suffering from heartworm issues. This is because the parasite makes its way through your dog's lungs to the surrounding veins, which can get in the way of breathing.

Next, your dog is probably super sleepy and lethargic. If you have an active, bouncing dog who can't stop running around and suddenly they're inactive, lethargic, or weak, it's probably time for a rush to the vets. 

Additionally, your dog might have a hard time breathing. They may pant or struggle to catch their breath, or even develop a bloody cough. Check their chest, too. If they have a protruding or bulging chest cavity, that's a good sign that they're suffering from heartworm issues.

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues your dog might be giving you to let you know they have heartworms. Make sure you're checking for things like:

  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Ears Drop
  • Weakness
  • Low Tail Carriage
  • Raspy Panting
  • Pupils Dilated

Other Signs

There are more signs your dog might be giving you to let you know something's wrong. Keep a look out for things like:

  • Lingering Cough
  • Reluctance To Eat
  • Loud Or Irregular Heartbeat
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Reluctance To Exercise
  • Weight Loss
  • Coughing Up Blood

History of Heartworm in Dogs


Heartworm has a very specific cause - mosquitoes! It's a specific parasite that affects dogs, cats, ferrets, and other mammals. It takes about seven months once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Chances are, as long as dogs and mosquitos have been around, the little pokey pests have been infecting canines with nasty bugs.

They lodge in your dog's heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and then begin to reproduce. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length, reproduce up to 250 times in your dog's system, and live about 7 years.

There is no other way for your dog to be infected with heartworms other than by the bite of a mosquito, and unfortunately, it's a tough thing to avoid. Heartworm infections have been reported in all 50 states. There's no way to tell if a mosquito is infected, which is why prevention of heartworms is so important for your dog.

The Science Behind Dogs Feeling Heartworms


Heartworms are a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. Not only is prevention important, but fast action after a diagnosis is as well.

Heartworm disease is divided into four stages, much like cancer. In the first stage, it will be tough to tell a difference in your dog at all. Even with a physical check-up from a vet, this will be hard to detect. 

The second stage will result in a lingering cough and a tired pooch. You might find your energetic dog is super-fatigued. Then, the third stage rolls in, and this is where your dog will start to feel the impact. Their cough will continue, their exercise will be limited, they'll have trouble breathing, and they may even be coughing up blood. 

By stage four, your dog will likely have long-term implications for their health, like enlarged liver or lungs and heart conditions.

Training Your Dog to Deal with Healing from Heartworms


Treating your dog for heartworm can be expensive, but the real effort comes in the few months following the treatment. To ensure your dog heals properly, you'll need to keep them quiet and off their paws. 

Studies show that most of the dogs that die after treatment do so because their owners let them exercise after and didn't give them proper time to heal. 

As the worms begin to die after treatment, they break up into pieces, which can cause blockages of pulmonary vessels. The more your dog moves around and gets back into their routine, the more likely they are to get these blockages. Training your dog to stay off their feet, take a few weeks to rest, and keeping them calm are going to be your biggest obstacles in helping them to recover.

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Written by a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/18/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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