Dog Heart Murmur

A dog heart murmur is an abnormal beating of the heart. The typical "thump, thump" of a normally beating heart is not what you will hear if you listen with stethoscope to a dog with a heart murmur. In a dog with a heart murmur, there will be a swishing sound in between the normal beating of the heart. The swishing sounds similar to that of the ocean waters washing up on the shore.

While having a heart murmur can be a relatively minor problem, there are certain causes leading to heart murmurs that can prove to have serious consequences for you dog. The only way to know for sure how a heart murmur will affect your dog is to have the diagnosis made and to get on a plan of treatment.

Causes of Dog Heart Murmur

A dog heart murmur is caused by an interruption in the normal, smooth flow of the blood through the heart. When the blood is forced to move in an untypically rough pattern, it causes the swishing sound that can be heard under stethoscope.

There can be several conditions which cause the blood to flow irregularly through the heart. Some of these causes include:

  • Congenital birth defect
  • Aging
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Heart Disease

While some puppies may be born with a heart murmur, other dogs may develop it as they age. Other times fleas and parasites can lead to anemic conditions, which can lead to the eventual cause of a heart murmur. This is another good reason to keep your dog flea and tick free.

Heart disease is the most dangerous cause of a heart murmur. When the cause of the murmur is heart disease, the blood that normally flows into the heart is actually flowing right back out. When the valves of the heart fail, they do not pump blood through the heart as they normally would. When this occurs, blood flows out of the heart and the heart is deprived of the blood it requires to function properly.

Symptoms of a Heart Murmurs in Dogs

Being able to recognize the signs of a heart murmur are crucial to getting your dog the treatment that he requires. Some of the symptoms to look for include:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

If you notice that your dog's tongue or gums has turned to a blue color, seek help immediately. This is a sign that your dog is not circulating the required amount of blood for his body systems to function correctly and can be a dangerous indication.

Diagnosis of a Canine Heart Murmur

Initially, the likelihood of a heart murmur will be detected while listening to the heart with a stethoscope. When an abnormality is heard, it will signal further diagnostic testing.

An electrocardiogram, or ECG, can also be used to help determine if a heart murmur is present. The ECG monitors the normal beating of the heart and then is interpreted for the results.

Blood and urine samples can also be taken to check the functionality of the liver and kidneys. Heart disease is well known for effecting the liver and kidneys. If the liver and kidneys are not functioning properly, it could be a sign that the cause of the murmur is heart disease.

Treatment of a Dog Heart Murmur

Treatment is not something that can be done for the murmur itself. However, the underlying condition can be treated. Treatment options will range from medication to surgery, depending upon what the true cause of the heart murmur is. If treatment is successful, the heart murmur will go away on its own.