Heart murmurs in dogs are typically extra heart vibrations or sounds that occur due to a disturbance in blood flow. The condition can be a symptom of an underlying condition in the heart or damage to the blood vessels.
As a pet owner, it helps to monitor your dog to identify any new signs. In some cases, the signs of murmurs are usually hard to detect. Most cases are usually identified during routine vet visits or when you the dog is taken to the vet for a different and unrelated problem.
In other cases, a dog heart murmur can reflect a severe heart disease. As such, it’s important to know if your dog has one.
Read on to learn more.
Look Out for Symptoms
When a murmur is accompanied by other symptoms, it may mean that your pet has a serious heart condition. Some of the possible symptoms the dog will show, include:
- Exercise intolerance
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Reduced activity level
- Pale mucous membranes
However, bear in mind that these symptoms may be due to other conditions. You’ll need to take the dog for a pet examination to confirm the presence of a condition.
The symptoms of a dog heart murmur may also vary due to several reasons, such as:
- Age of the dog
- Location of the murmurs
- Grade of the murmurs
- Cause of the murmurs
If your dog has a heart murmur that’s accompanied by weakness, coughing or exercise intolerance, the underlying cause could be congestive heart failure. The grading of the murmurs is done basing on the audibility of the sounds or vibrations.
For example, grade I is barely audible while grade VI is usually very loud. In some cases, you can simply hear the sounds by placing your ear close to your dog’s heart.
In severe situations, heart disorders that cause heart murmurs can lead to periods of a sudden collapse or fainting spells. This usually happens when the fails to distribute oxygen properly to other body tissues through blood circulation. If this happens, you’ll notice your dog’s gums are pale.
A Vet Diagnosis Can Help
If you notice any of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean your pet has a dog heart murmur. Consider visiting a vet for further examination and testing to know what exactly is causing the symptoms.
Heart murmurs in dogs are usually first diagnosed using a stethoscope. During this examination, the vet will categorize and describe the sounds and compare them to the existing condition. Plus, the sounds will be graded anywhere between I to VI depending on the vet’s examination.
In some cases, your pet may need an ultrasound, X-ray, or an MRI scan to view the images of the heart. This helps to know what part is affected and could help to determine the condition that is causing the murmurs.
An ultrasound is a low-cost and non-invasive procedure can help to inspect your pet’s heart. It shows the picture of the heart and other surrounding tissues. This procedure can also show tumors on the heart and narrowing of the arteries.
Bear in mind young dogs usually have a heart murmur of grade I. This may not be a sign of any condition, but it indicates the cardiovascular system is still developing.
Understand the Possible Causes
It helps to know the possible causes of heart murmurs in dogs. This will allow you deliver better care to your pet and avoid activities that might strain his heart. Some murmurs can be congenital or acquired later in life.
One of the common causes of murmurs in dogs is usually a disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. It simply means an enlarged heart and usually affects the ventricle. In this case, the heart muscle weakens, leading to poor contraction of the heart. This causes poor blood circulation, leading to various symptoms.
Heart murmurs can occur due to conditions that affect the heart valves, such as mitral, pulmonic, aortic, and tricuspid. Some of these conditions include dysplasia, valvular stenosis, endocarditis, and endocardiosis.
Other possible causes of a dog heart murmur are septal defects, patent ductus arteriosis, heartworm infection, hyperthyroidism, Tetralogy of Fallot, and anemia.
Prevention of Heart Murmurs
In most cases, heart murmurs in dogs are usually clinical conditions. This simply means they’re likely to be hard to prevent. As stated, a murmur usually occurs due to another condition, which may take time to show up.
Minor heart murmurs can be managed by simple exercises and dietary changes. Your veterinarian will advise you on the ideal foods and activities, like dog walking, for your pet. Discrete murmurs may not be treatable or preventable. You will need to monitor your dog closely to see any changes over time.
You might also need to work with a veterinary cardiology specialist to better understand the dog’s murmurs. Keep in mind that a murmur, by itself, isn’t a symptom of any disease or illness. However, you should worry if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as panting and weakness.
Treatment of a Dog Heart Murmur
For most cases, a dog heart murmur usually stops when an underlying cause is diagnosed and treated. As such, treatment will vary. For example, if your dog has a valve defect, he may need to undergo a surgical procedure.
Cases of murmurs due to atherosclerosis are usually managed through dietary changes. If there are tumors on the heart, the vet may recommend chemotherapy and surgical removal.
Puppies with low-grade murmurs do not require treatment. The sound may resolve by itself within six months.
The Bottom Line
A dog heart murmur may or may not be a serious condition depending on the underlying cause. The treatment of heart murmurs can be quite costly. Overall, the cost will depend on the underlying cause and the recommended treatment or procedure.
A recovery of a heart murmur in dogs will also depend on the severity of the murmur and the treatment option for your pet. Your pet will need routine checkups to monitor the treatment response and ensure there are no other changes or complications.
Monitoring your pet closely is the key to ensuring you have a healthy dog.