Can a Dog Heart Murmur Be Treated?

A dog heart murmur is caused by a problem with heart valves that affect communication between the left and right side of the heart. If left untreated, this could lead to complete heart failure.

Causes of Heart Murmurs

Some puppies are born with heart murmurs, or they could develop with age as your dog's heart starts to weaken. Murmurs are caused by a heart valve not closing properly, which could lead to one side of the heart releasing more or less blood than the other as well as backflow of blood.

Murmurs can be caused by many different heart problems, such as hypertension, anemia, cardiovascular disease or mitral blood disease. Common causes that your dog may be suffering from a heart murmur are a chronic hacking cough, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, fainting and blue tint to tongue or gums. 

Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs

Veterinarians are usually alerted to a heart murmur simply by listening to the heart through a stethoscope. To determine the cause, he or she might then take blood tests or urinalysis, which would alert you to other internal problems, such as liver or kidney problems.

An electrocardiogram records electrical activity in the heart. Since each activity on the ECG responds to a particular heart activity, an irregularity can tell you when the murmur is occurring and what the likely cause would be.

An echocardiogram uses ultrasound techniques to provide two or three dimensional images of the heart in real time, which can reveal valve problems, contractions, pumping efficiency, chamber size and thickness of heart walls.

Finally, chest X-rays may be required so the veterinarian can view your dog's heart and observe its functioning.

Treatment of Heart Murmurs

Treatment of heart murmurs often depends on the age and health of your dog. Some owners opt not to treat heart murmurs because they aren't causing a serious problem. Some puppies born with heart murmurs even heal on their own.

However, several treatment options are also available, depending on the cause of the heart murmurs. If the murmur is caused by hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, often a diet change and increased exercise regime can solve the problem. Your veterinarian may recommend a low-sodium diet with more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and coenzyme Q10.

If the heart murmur is caused by heart disease, your veterinarian may prescribe a diuretic, which will prevent fluids from building up in your dog's heart. Medications such as Enalapril, Lasix or Benazepril are often prescribed to lower blood pressure and strengthen cardiovascular functions as well.

In some cases, surgery may be the only treatment to repair the injured valve. This can be recommended both in young puppies born with a defect and older dogs who have recently contracted the disease. The surgery requires stitching the offending valve so that it will close properly.

Depending on the cause of the heart murmur, treatment may be relatively simple or require extensive surgery. However, no matter what the cause, heart murmurs are always a concern. Though they may go away on their own, it is more likely that they will eventually cause a serious problem.