Heart Murmurs

What is a Heart Murmur? 
A dog's heartbeat will usually make a steady short thump, where in a heart murmur, their heartbeat is softer and longer.


How Do I Know if My Pet Has a Heart Murmur?
A veterinarian is the only that can properly diagnose heart murmurs.  Symptoms include irregular heartbeat, hacking cough that does not go away, labored breathing, excessive panting even while the dog is resting, the pet tires easily.   Sometimes the vet can tell by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. If the vet feels that there might be a possible heart murmur, then they will usually do a electrocardiogram (ECG).  An electrocardiogram allows the vet to measure the heart rate to see if there are any abnormal rhythms. Sometimes the vet will also do a chest x-ray and/or a echocardiogram (which will show any problems with the heart valves as well as how well the heart if functioning.) Just because your pet was diagnosed with a heart murmur does Not mean that they will have "heart problems" and significant health issues. Many pets have heart murmurs and it does not decrease their quality of life or longevity. However, for others, the heart murmur can be very severe and cause a wide variety of health issues.


Are Heart Murmurs Serious?
Just because your pet was diagnosed with a heart murmur does Not mean that they will have significant health issues with "heart problems." Many pets have heart murmurs and it does Not decrease their quality of life or longevity. However, for other's it does. Some heart murmurs can be very severe & do cause a wide variety of health issues.


What are the 6 "grades" of Heart Murmurs? 
Once they have confirmed your pet does have a heart murmur the vet will let you know what "grade" it is.

  • GRADE: 1 & 2 If your pet has a grade 1 or 2 heart murmur, most vet's will usually just tell you to just keep an eye on your pet and see if they start manifesting any symptoms (like habitual coughing or lethargy) Grade 1 and 2 are typically considered "minor" and don't usually require immediate medical attention.
  • GRADE: 3 & 4 Most pets with grade 3 or 4 will require medicine because they are a little more serious then a grade 1 or 2. If your pet has a grade 3 or 4, you might notice that they tired easy after playing, going on walks etc....and they also might have a persistent cough which is sometimes a sign for extra fluid collecting in the lungs.
  • GRADE: 5 & 6 This grade is very serious. The pet will require meds but also may need surgery as well. Grade 5 & 6 can develop into congestive heart failure.


What is the Congestive Heart Failure? 
Congestive heart failure is when the heart can Not pump efficiently, and leads to death. Treatment depends on the underlying reason your pet is in congestive heart failure. (as a grade 5 and 6 heart murmur is not the only health issue that leads to congestive heart failure). Some treatments might include: diuretics, low sodium diet, nutritional supplements, hospitalization, thoracocentesis (which is when they removal the fluid from the lungs with a needle) and then of course there are several meds and pastes that vet's can use.


There are 2 types of congestive heart failure.

  1. The right side and the left side.
    Right side symptoms would be more: coughing difficulty or rapid breathing can't participate in anything physical swollen abdomen due to the build up of fluids Swelling of the limps
  2. Left side symptoms would be more: fainting can't participate in physical things rapid & difficulty breathing coughing


How Did My Puppy Get a Heart Murmur?
There are several causes for heart murmurs:

  1. Birth defects: which means they were born with it
  2.  Heart Valve Disease
  3. Anemia: if this is the cause, then they can usually find what is causing the anemia and many times the heart murmur will go away.
  4. Heart worm is a common cause of anemia. The best way to prevent this all together is by keeping your pet on a monthly heart worm.


What is Heartworm?
Heart worms are just that, they are worms that live & travel in the pulmonary arteries of your pet. Pulmonary arteries are the blood vessels that go from the heart to the lungs. Any age and breed of dog can get heart worm. Your pet can get heart worm from mosquitoes. Heart worm is scary because the dog can not show any outward signs until it's either to late or very serious. So you really should keep your pet on a monthly heart guard since mosquitoes are everywhere. HOWEVER,  SOME breeds can't tolerate the drug called "milbemycin" that is often in heart guard preventatives. So just check with your vet. They have to do a simple blood work test before they can prescribe you heart guard anyway.  Symptoms of heart worm (once it's progressed) would be coughing, bloody sputum, heavy breathing, swollen abdomen from build up fluid.


Birth Defect Heart Murmurs
Most of the time if a puppy has a heart murmur from birth, the vet's will just have you watch it (unless it's a real serious one) but in most cases the puppy will outgrow it. (just like human babies do)  So usually the pet has to be a few years old before they can know if it's a serious problem or if it will self correct.

Disclaimer: We are NOT licensed vets. DO NOT try to diagnose or treat animals based off this or any other information you find on the internet.  If you pet is having any kind of medical issues, please seek professional treatment from a licensed vet who is trained and set up to handle such matters.