If your dog has a heart murmur or other cardiac problems, you may wonder if this is something serious to worry about. What causes heart murmurs and does that mean my pet has heart disease? How does this affect my dog’s life expectancy? The purpose is to check for any abnormal heart rhythms, heart murmurs and other possible. 

Oakland Veterinary Referral Services is here to address the issue of heart murmur in dogs, its diagnosis, and treatment. 

What Is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur is not an actual disease or an indication that your dog has heart disease, although it can be a red flag. It is an abnormal sound that occurs during blood flow. It’s a “swooshing” sound that happens between the normal “lub-dub” sounds. The murmur is a vibration or change in a normal heartbeat. It can indicate the presence of a structural abnormality of the heart, or it can point to heart disease. This is why a thorough examination with diagnostic testing is important when your veterinarian identifies a heart murmur.

How Are They Graded?

During an examination, your veterinarian will grade the heart murmur. The grades start at 1, being the faintest murmur, to 6 as the most severe. In other words, the louder the murmur, the higher the grade. While this can give us a better understanding of the severity of the murmur, the grade itself isn’t an indication of whether heart disease is present or not. 

Diagnosing and Treating Heart Murmurs

There are a few tests recommended for diagnosing the cause of heart murmurs. These include cardiac tests, such as electrocardiogram, blood pressure measurement, ultrasound, and chest X-rays. Along with these, we will look for underlying diseases related to a heart condition, such as anemia, thyroid disease, and an infection, among others. We will also perform a blood test called the Cardiopet ProBNP that can find heart damage or defects by looking for the release of certain hormones. 

These tests are necessary to provide the most accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Low grade heart murmurs with no heart disease or other signs of illness or infection do not need treatment. We do, however, monitor your pet for any changes to the heart and overall health. If the murmur is more severe or there are signs of heart disease, we will advise making changes to your pet’s lifestyle, including weight management, nutrition, and exercise, as well as certain medications.

My Dog has a Heart Murmur…Now What?

The good news is that many dogs live a good, healthy life with a heart murmur, as long as they are getting the correct treatment and lifestyle changes have been made if needed. Early detection is a key success factor for a better prognosis with heart conditions. We recommend following up with your veterinarian should your pet have a heart murmur. Also follow up if your dog is experiencing signs of heart disease, such as fatigue, exercise intolerance, chronic cough, and weakness.

If you would like to learn more because your dog has a heart murmur, schedule an appointment or contact us