Pet Health

Heart Murmur in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Heart murmurs in dogs are abnormal heart sounds or vibrations which might be caused by worsened blood flow within dog's heart. Click to learn more.

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Heart murmurs are a common health problem found in both young and old dogs. As with many other animal species, dog heart murmur is a sign of improper blood flow in the heart, typically caused by another underlying health condition. If your dog has a heart murmur, there’s no need to panic – a vet can treat many murmurs.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about heart murmur in dogs: symptoms, risks, causes, and treatment. The more you know about this medical condition, the better you’ll be able to help your furry friend.

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What Is a Heart Murmur in Dogs?

A heart murmur is the result of turbulent or improper blood flow through the heart. In most cases, this is simply a sign of a different problem in the affected dog. For example, if there are structural issues in the dog’s heart, this might result in a heart murmur.

Not all heart murmurs have the same severity. There are different heart murmur grades – some are much more noticeable than others. If a heart murmur is significant enough, you will be able to feel it when you place your hand on your pet’s heart.

There are four types of heart murmur configurations that you may find in your dog. Below, let’s explore each of these four configuration types:

·    Plateau Murmurs: This type of murmur typically creates a consistent sound. This is most likely a result of aortic regurgitation.

·    Continuous Murmurs: This type of murmur is typically the result of patent ductus arteriosus, which is a congenital heart defect.

·    Crescendo-Decrescendo Murmurs: This type of heart murmur will vary in loudness – it will grow softer after growing louder. This is likely the result of aortic stenosis or pulmonic stenosis.

·    Decrescendo Murmurs:  This murmur begins loud and then grows quieter. This may be a result of aortic regurgitation of the ventricular septal defect.

Another condition to keep in mind is “innocent heart murmurs.” This type of heart murmur occurs in some puppies – and it doesn’t pose any serious health risk. In most cases, an innocent heart murmur will stop a couple of months after birth (or sooner).

If you’re not a trained vet, it will be hard to determine which type of murmur is present in your dog. That’s why it’s essential to seek a professional diagnosis. Feel free to ask your vet questions about the various types of murmurs outlined in this section of our blog guide.

What Causes Heart Murmur in Dogs?

As mentioned, dog heart murmurs are typically caused by another health condition, or a combination of multiple health conditions. Understanding the root cause of your dog’s murmur is essential, as this is the condition that will require treatment to fix the murmur.

While many heart murmurs develop in old age, some dogs are born with heart murmurs. Heart murmurs in puppies are typically detected during initial check-ups with your vet. Owners of older dogs should seek routine check-ups to ensure that a murmur hasn’t developed in old age.

In many cases, a heart murmur can develop if the heart structure changes. This may be due to issues with heart muscles, blood vessels, valves, and a host of other heart components. Turbulent blood flow can develop if these issues arise.

Additionally, some heart murmurs are congenital. This means that your dog has a murmur at birth (it’s not the result of a changing heart structure later in life). 

The following conditions can cause dog heart murmur. Some of these conditions can cause severe problems, so it’s essential to treat the root cause of the heart murmur:

·    Dysplasia

·    Endocarditis

·    Anemia

·    Atherosclerosis

·    Blood Pressure Problems

·    Cardiomyopathy

·    Hyperthyroidism

·    Tumor

·    Heartworm disease

·    More

How to Diagnose Heart Murmur in Dogs

To diagnose a heart murmur in your dog, you will need to take your pet to a vet. It’s essential to understand the symptoms of this condition – remaining aware of the signs will ensure you seek qualified medical assistance. The following symptoms may indicate a heart murmur:

·    Your dog is having trouble breathing

·    Your dog is coughing

·    Your dog seems weak and tired

·    Your dog doesn’t want to exercise

·    Your dog faints

·    Your dog has pale gums

·    Your dog’s abdomen is distended

·    Your dog seems bloated

Make sure to remain aware of the above heart murmur signs. While these symptoms are also indicators of other animal diseases, it’s always a good idea to get a check-up if your pet is exhibiting worrying signs. Your vet will perform diagnostic testing to determine if your dog has a heart murmur.

How to Treat Heart Murmur in Dogs

A heart murmur requires professional attention from a licensed vet. If you suspect that your dog has a heart murmur, you should immediately take it to your vet. Still, most heart murmurs are diagnosed during a routine vet check-up.

Due to the varying nature of the causes of murmurs, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating this condition. Instead, your vet will try to determine any underlying health problems your dog has and then begin treatment to reduce the murmur and any associated conditions.

In some cases, a heart murmur will require surgery to repair. This can be an expensive and arduous process for many dog owners, which is one of the many reasons it’s essential to have pet health insurance.

Not all heart murmur treatments involve therapy. In specific cases, your dog might require oral treatments or other care options. Your vet may also suggest developing a custom diet for your dog.

Innocent heart murmurs will not require treatment – they will likely go away as your dog gets older.

Heart Murmur in Dogs: Life Expectancy

Many of our readers ask us how long they can expect their dog to live after being diagnosed with a heart murmur. The answer to this question depends entirely on the severity and cause of the heart murmur.

Many dogs live a full life with a heart murmur and don’t experience any significant drawbacks. On the other hand, some older dogs that develop heart murmurs may experience heart failure. To increase your dog’s lifespan, it’s essential to seek treatment for the underlying cause of the murmur.

Conclusion

Now that you understand dog heart murmur and its risk to your dog’s health, it’s essential to ensure you have the resources to treat it. While you can pay out of pocket for dog heart murmur treatment, the costs can add up quickly. If your dog has a severe heart murmur, or if its heart murmur is the result of a serious health condition, it may cost thousands of dollars to treat.

As these dog heart murmur treatment costs fall outside of the average family budget, many pet parents will purchase pet health insurance plans to reduce the financial burden of treating medical conditions like heart murmur in their dogs.

At Fursure, we're on a mission to help pet parents protect their best friends. Our team of pet insurance advisors will help you find a policy that fits your budget by comparing offers from the nation's leading pet insurance providers.

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