What Is Heart Murmurs?
Heart murmur (also called murmurs) are abnormal sounds made when your heart beats. They’re usually heard during sleep or while lying down. Your doctor may diagnose it as a heart problem if they hear them several times in one day. However, sometimes they don’t occur at all and there’s no reason to worry about it since these noises are not dangerous and can even be a sign of good health.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Has A Heart Mural?
Your veterinarian will probably ask you questions about your dog’s breathing patterns and heartbeat. You’ll need to take some tests to make sure that your dog doesn’t have any other medical problems like diabetes, thyroid disease, allergies or kidney failure. Also, you’ll need to check whether your dog has had any heart attacks before.
When Does Heart Murmur Occur?
A heart murmur occurs when your heart beats irregularly. It’s common to hear a murmur in dogs with certain types of heart conditions such as:
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This condition causes the walls of the heart muscle to become thickened and stiff.
These defects cause the normal beating rhythm of your dog’s heart to slow down causing him/her to cough frequently.
Dilated cardiomyopathy. This condition is another form of heart disease that causes the muscular walls of your dog’s heart chambers to stretch, leading to a prolonged heartbeat.
It can cause sudden death in small dogs and in certain breeds it tends to be inherited, such as Cavalier King Charles spaniels, boxers, and English bulldogs. Other breeds that are more likely to develop this condition include great Danes, St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, Scottish terriers and Doberman pinschers.
Valvular heart disease. This condition involves the malfunctioning of one or more of your dog’s heart valves that don’t close properly causing a prolonged heartbeat.
It can also cause sudden death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Murmur In Dogs?
The most common symptom of a heart murmur in dogs is shortness of breath, which could range from just being noticeable to severe panting. Other signs and symptoms may include:
Exercise intolerance. Your dog may be reluctant to exercise and tire out more quickly than he or she normally would.
Fainting. Fainting can be caused by a heart murmur because it can lead to the blood supply being cut off to different parts of your dog’s body.
Your dog may also have frequent nosebleeds.
Fluid build up in the chest. This condition, known as pulmonary edema, occurs when the heart isn’t able to pump blood effectively throughout your dog’s body and the fluid starts to leak into the air sacs of the lungs.
If your dog has any of these conditions, it is very important that you take him or her to the veterinarian as soon as you can since it can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
How Is A Heart Murmur Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s medical history and give your dog a physical examination. He or she is likely to recommend various tests to find out the underlying cause of your dog’s heart condition, including:
Blood tests. Your veterinarian may recommend that your dog have a blood test to determine whether his or her body is producing abnormal proteins that are affecting the heart.
EKGs (electrocardiograms). These tests measure the electrical activity of your dog’s heart and can help your veterinarian determine whether your dog’s heart is beating normally or if there are any irregularities.
Chest X-rays. These tests allow your veterinarian to look at your dog’s chest to check for signs of fluid or air in the lungs, which can be a sign that there may be a problem with your dog’s heart.
Cardiac ultrasound. This non-invasive procedure allows your veterinarian to examine your dog’s heart and can help him or her determine whether there may be a structural problem with your dog’s heart.
Treatment For A Dog With A Heart Murmur
The underlying cause of your dog’s heart murmur will determine the type of treatment that will be recommended by your veterinarian. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for treatment since this condition can lead to complications if not treated properly.
Some of the more common treatments that your veterinarian may recommend for your dog include:
Medications. Medications can be used to strengthen the heart muscle or to keep the heart pumping blood effectively, among other things.
It is important that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions on giving these medications and don’t stop giving them unless your veterinarian instructs you to do so.
Dietary changes. Your veterinarian may recommend a specific diet to help strengthen your dog’s heart, particularly if the murmur is due to weakness in the heart muscle.
Rest. If your veterinarian feels that your dog’s murmur is caused by over activity or excitement, he or she may recommend that your dog get plenty of rest.
This may mean that you don’t take your dog on long walks or let him play Frisbee in the park anymore.
Avoiding stress. Some dogs can be overactive or just excited by nature.
Your veterinarian may recommend that you avoid situations that may cause your dog to get overly excited or stressed out.
If you discover that your dog’s murmur is caused by heartworm, then your veterinarian will give your dog medication to kill the worms and help strengthen the heart muscle. Your veterinarian may also give you medication to give to your dog so he or she doesn’t have any allergic reactions to the heartworm medication.
If the valve leakage is severe, then surgery will be recommended to repair the leaking valve(s).
Living And Dealing With A Dog With A Heart Murmur
Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of your dog’s heart murmur and recommended a course of treatment, you’ll just need to monitor your dog’s condition to make sure that it’s improving. Depending upon the severity of your dog’s heart murmur, your veterinarian may want to see you at regular intervals or just give you a call every now and then to see how your dog is doing.
If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian. In the meantime, here are some important facts to know in dealing with a dog with a heart murmur:
Your dog will have to take its medication(s) as prescribed by your veterinarian. This means you need to make sure that you understand what types of medication your dog needs to take and how often it needs to take it.
You should also keep track of when to give your dog its medication(s) and when to call your veterinarian.
It’s usually a good idea to limit the amount of exercise or excitement your dog has when it has a heart murmur. This means you may need to put off that trip to the beach or just keep your dog on a leash at the park if other dogs are around.
Be sure to monitor your dog for signs of weakness, fatigue, or colicing. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
It’s also important that you make sure to keep all follow-up visits and appointments your veterinarian gives you.
As with any serious medical condition, it’s important that you keep a positive attitude. Your dog will sense your mood and pick up on any pessimism.
So try to stay upbeat and positive.
Always remember to be patient with your dog and with yourself. This means that you shouldn’t get upset or angry with your dog if it has an “off” day where it seems tired or isn’t feeling well.
Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you have to miss a dose of medication or something else important in your dog’s treatment plan. Things happen and there is always an explanation. Just make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to explain what happened.
Heart murmur in dogs is a relatively common condition that can be managed with medication and special care. If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact your veterinarian.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Retrospective study of 942 small-sized dogs: Prevalence of left apical systolic heart murmur and left-sided heart failure, critical effects of breed and sex (P Serfass, V Chetboul, CC Sampedrano… – Journal of Veterinary …, 2006 – Elsevier)
- Management of incidentally detected heart murmurs in dogs and cats (E Côté, NJ Edwards, SJ Ettinger, VL Fuentes… – Journal of Veterinary …, 2015 – Elsevier)
- Association of periodontal disease, oral procedures, and other clinical findings with bacterial endocarditis in dogs (GD Peddle, KJ Drobatz, CE Harvey… – Journal of the …, 2009 – Am Vet Med Assoc)
- Prevalence of congenital heart disease in boxers in Italy (C Bussadori, C Quintavalla, A Capelli – Journal of Veterinary Cardiology, 2001 – Elsevier)