Causes of Canine Heart Murmur

Canine heart murmur is caused by problems with your dog's heart valves and can indicate a serious problem, which can result in heart failure. If you notice a heart murmur, consult your veterinarian immediately.

The Canine Heart

Like the human heart, the canine heart has four chambers: the left and right ventricles and left and right atria. There are two sets of heart valves, the atrioventricular valves, which separate the atria from the ventricles, and the semilunar valves, which separate the ventricles from the aorta. These valves prevent blood from flowing backward in the system rather than forward.

Murmurs are caused by the valves ineffectiveness to close properly after releasing the blood into the next stage of the process. If the murmur comes after the first heart sound, it's a problem with the atrioventricular valve. If it comes after the second sound, it's a problem with the semilunar valves.

These problems can lead to abnormal communication between the left and right side of the heart since one side may be leaking blood and not be able to pump as strongly. This can eventually result in heart failure if left untreated.

Common signs that your dog may have a heart murmur include a chronic hacking cough, difficulty breathing, inability to exercise, fainting and bluish tinge to tongue or gums.

Causes of Heart Murmurs

Some puppies are born with heart murmurs caused by the inability of the body to develop properly after birth. These can go away with time or further treatment may be required. On the flip side, murmurs may be caused by age and may develop as the heart valves begin to weaken.

Heart murmurs may also be caused by a cardiac disease, such as cardiovascular disease, anemia, mitral valve disease or hypertension. Hypertension is equivalent to high blood pressure, which can be caused by stress, lack of exercise, obesity or improper diet.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Murmurs are often easy to detect simply with a stethoscope, which will magnify your dog's heart sounds. Your veterinarian also may want to run other tests such as blood tests or urinalysis, which could alert you of problems elsewhere in your dog's body such as liver or kidneys. An EKG, echocardiogram or chest X-rays may also be required to determine the exact cause of the problem.

Treatment of the heart murmur will depend on the age of your dog and the cause. If the problem isn't that serious, you may opt not to act on the problem and wait for further symptoms. Puppies with heart murmurs often get better on their own. However, your dog may require heart surgery to repair the offending valve if the problem is serious enough.

If the problem is caused by hypertension, a diet change and renewed exercise regimine may be the only treatment required. Medication is also available to open up blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Heart diseases also may be treated by medication.

If you notice a heart murmur in your dog, consult a veterinarian. Though a simple diet change may be all that is required, heart disease is always a serious concern and should be dealt with immediately.