Signs of Heartworms in a Cocker Spaniel

Written by heather vecchioni
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Signs of Heartworms in a Cocker Spaniel
Cocker spaniels have lots of hair, which can cause them to pant heavily, a common sign of heartworm disease. (cocker au bord d"un lac image by Sophie Hurel from

Like all dogs, cocker spaniels are at risk for heartworms, particularly if they spend a lot of time outdoors. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, which inject the dog with heartworm larvae when they bite. The larvae then burrow into the dog, grow into adults and eventually reside in the right side of the dog's heart, causing serious damage. According to Cocker Spaniel Rescue of New England, affected cockers show a few common symptoms when suffering from heartworm disease.


Dr. Holly Nash of Doctors Foster and Smith states that the most common sign of heartworms in dogs is coughing, likely due to the presence of worms in the dog's heart. Some cocker spaniel owners incorrectly assume that the cough is due to a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, which is common among cockers. However, blood tests can detect whether or not a dog has heartworms, and should be performed if you are not giving heartworm medicine to your dog.

Exercise Intolerance

As the heartworm disease progresses, your cocker spaniel may exhibit signs of exercise intolerance, or not be able to do as much as she used to. Cockers are not the most active breed to begin with; some get weighed down by the heat because of their hair, and will act tired and worn out after a small amount of activity. However, if your cocker used to be active but suddenly isn't, heartworms could be the cause. Consult your veterinarian before serious damage results.

Changes in Breathing

Cocker Spaniel Rescue of New England states that cockers with heartworms can experience difficulty breathing and have abnormal lung sounds. Some cockers have issues in the heat and can pant heavily as a result. If your cocker spaniel has no known history of this trouble and suddenly experiences a change it its breathing, contact a vet, as heartworms could be to blame.

Signs of Congestive Heart Failure

Cocker spaniels with heartworm disease may exhibit signs of congestive heart failure. According to Dr. Nancy Laste of Pet Place, signs of congestive heart failure include distension of the stomach, pulsation of the jugular veins in the neck when the dog is sitting or standing or heavy breathing. It is important not to confuse an overweight cocker's stomach with one enlarged by fluid. Cocker spaniels are often overweight, but the weight gain usually takes time; in contrast, abdominal distension due to heartworms can occur rapidly.

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