A medical condition may be diagnosed anytime during your pet’s lifetime, even at birth. Some illnesses are known while others may prompt more questions. Because of this, it is important to be mindful of medical conditions that can affect dogs of all ages. That’s why we created a pet owner’s guide to understand more about heart murmur in dogs with the help of Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold.
What you need to know about heart murmurs in dogs
What is a heart murmur?
diagnosis can be concerning, but what does it actually mean for your pets? Nold
explains what a heart murmur is below.
“A heart murmur indicates the turbulent flow of blood in the heart. If it’s severe enough, it can not only be heard but also felt when you lay your hand over your dog’s heart.”
If you are
concerned about your dog, please seek the medical expertise of your
veterinarian. They can listen to your dog’s heart and recommend the best course
of action for your best friend.
How do dogs get heart murmurs?
Heart murmurs can start at any time during your dog’s development. You might associate a heart condition with only adult or senior dogs, but that’s not always the case. Here Nold breaks down a heart murmur diagnosis and the course of action that may follow.
“Dogs may be born with heart murmurs or they can develop them when they
get older. Heart murmurs can have many causes, including defects in the heart
wall to thickening of the heart valves. Your veterinarian can get more information
about the possible causes of a heart murmur by listening with a stethoscope
while taking into account the age and breed of the dog. However, often
diagnostics and possibly a referral to a veterinary cardiologist are necessary
to get a specific diagnosis.”
Although your dog may receive a heart murmur diagnosis, it does not always mean there is only one treatment plan. Every dog is different, and there are different levels of heart murmur diagnosis ranging from daily medication to surgery.
Signs of a heart murmur
While a heart murmur might sound daunting, your dog might not even look or act sick. That is one of the mysterious things about heart murmurs in dogs. It’s really dependent on the level of severity of the murmur for your dog. Nold points out some signs that may be related to the cause of your murmur:
- Heartworm disease
- Labored breathing
- Valvular heart disease
In addition, “with heartworm disease, you may see signs such as coughing and exercise intolerance. But most often, there are no signs until your veterinarian listens to your pet’s heart,” says Nold. For this reason, this is one of the reasons why yearly wellness exams and check-ups with your veterinarian are so important. Early detection is key for your furry friend.
Heart murmur in dogs: severity and what it means
Not all heart murmurs are the same for every dog. While some heart murmurs are a grade one, which is barely audible, a grade four is pronounced and loud. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the grade of the heart murmur and get more information from the cardiologist from an echocardiogram.
“Spencer was diagnosed with a heart murmur in 2018. With the help of a Trupanion policy we’re able to give her the medical care that she needs. It’s stressful emotionally and financially when you have a sick pet. Because of Trupanion, the financial stress is taken away. We don’t have to make decisions based off finances. We can make decisions based on getting the best care possible for Spencer. Between cardiology appointments and monthly medication, the Trupanion policy has paid $4,039.52 in claims for her heart murmur. We’re so grateful.”
-Kelli, a Trupanion member since 2016
Treatment will be dependent on the severity of your dog’s heart murmur. For instance, “some heart murmurs only need to be monitored and in some cases, like in young puppies, they go away with time. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the heart murmur, which in rare cases may involve surgery. Further, most treatment involves close monitoring until medication becomes necessary,” states Nold.
If your dog gets a heart murmur diagnosis, remember every dog’s treatment plan is different. Not every dog will need medication or surgery. Fortunately, with the advancements in veterinary medicine and the help of your veterinarian, your dog can receive the best care possible. And plenty of cuddles and positivity from the family certainly helps!
To learn more on dog medical conditions, read Pneumonia in Dogs: What You Need to Know