Dog Heart Murmur Symptoms

Dog heart murmurs can cause serious problems and reduce the longevity of your dog's life, but a heart murmur diagnosis is not always serious. Some heart murmurs are mild and cause few problems. Some of them even go away with age.

Types of Dog Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are usually caused by problems in the heart valves that connect the ventricles to the atria or the ventricles and the blood vessels. Murmurs are caused when the valves don't close properly. A whistle is heard if the valve doesn't open properly. This can affect the blood flow through the heart, which can cause the left and the right side of the heart to communicate ineffectively.

There are six grades of heart murmurs. Grades 1 and 2 are mild and usually do not require medical treatment, just observation over time. If diagnosed in a young dog, they may heal as time passes. Grades 3 and 4 are more serious and may require medication. Grades 5 and 6 may need surgery to repair them and may eventually lead to heart failure.

Causes of a Dog Heart Murmur

Heart murmurs can have many causes, such as age or high blood pressure. They can be caused by birth defects that appear as soon as the puppy is born or develop as the dog ages. Blood diseases such as anemia, cardiovascular disease and mitral valve disease, can also lead to heart murmurs.

Heart Murmur Symptoms

Heart murmurs can often be detected during routine examinations when the veterinarian hears the murmur through the stethoscope. Mild heart murmurs may have no other symptoms and be difficult to detect.

As the murmur becomes more serious, other symptoms can appear. These symptoms include a chronic cough, labored breathing, exercise intolerance, fainting, lethargy or a bluish tint to the tongue or gums.

Heart Murmur Diagnosis

Heart murmurs can usually be detected by listening through a stethoscope, especially if symptoms are severe. Occasionally, however, murmurs might be very mild and require additional testing.

An electrocardiogram records the heart's electrical activity and allows your veterinarian to observe if the beats are at regular intervals and are of regular sizes. An echocardiogram measures the heart's valves, functions, contractions, heart size and heart wall thickness.

Veterinarians also may test the blood and urine for kidney or liver problems that may lead to heart disease or chest X-rays that illuminates the heart and chest.

Heart Murmur Treatment for Dogs

Treatment for heart murmurs depends on the severity of the condition. Many mild heart murmurs won't require treatment, just regular veterinary visits to ensure that the condition is not worsening. The veterinarian may recommend diet and exercise changes that could help improve your dog's overall health and reduce stress on his heart.

In more severe cases, medications might be prescribed to lower blood pressure and strengthen contractions. Heart or valve surgery may also be required to correct the problem.

Heart murmurs are not always a cause for concern. Many murmurs are so mild that they won't cause health problems. However, it's important to monitor your dog for symptoms so he can be treated as soon as possible if a problem arises.