My Veterinarian Told Me My Dog Has a Heart Murmur. What Does This Mean?

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My Veterinarian Told Me My Dog Has a Heart Murmur. What Does This Mean?

Heart murmurs in dogs refer to abnormal sounds heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope, caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart or blood vessels. These murmurs can be indicative of various underlying conditions.


What Causes Heart Murmurs in Dogs?

  • Congenital Heart Defects: Structural abnormalities present at birth, such as defective heart valves or abnormal blood vessel connections.
  • Valvular Disease: Conditions like degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) in older dogs can lead to murmurs due to degenerative changes in heart valves.
  • Cardiomyopathy: Diseases affecting the heart muscle’s ability to contract effectively.
  • Benign Causes: Also referred to as physiological, these are murmurs that are not due to any underlying heart condition and are considered normal.
  • Infections or Inflammation: Heart infections or inflammation (endocarditis) causing murmurs.
  • Anemia: Low red blood cell count leading to increased blood flow and murmurs.


What Are the Symptoms?

  • Symptoms experienced by a dog with a heart murmur depend on the underlying cause or condition leading to the murmur.
  • A murmur itself doesn’t necessarily result in observable symptoms, as it is a sign of turbulent blood flow rather than a direct cause of clinical signs.
  • Treatment doesn’t target the murmur directly but focuses on addressing the underlying condition.


How Are Heart Murmurs Diagnosed?

A veterinarian conducts a physical examination to listen to the dog’s heart and might recommend further tests:

  • Echocardiogram: Considered the gold standard to evaluate cardiac structure, function, and blood flow patterns.
    • Assess Cardiac Anatomy: Echocardiograms help visualize any structural abnormalities in the heart, such as defects in the valves, chambers, or blood vessels.
    • Evaluate Heart Function: They measure how well the heart is pumping blood, assessing the strength and efficiency of the heart muscle.
    • Determine Blood Flow: Echocardiograms aid in detecting abnormal blood flow patterns that might be causing the murmur.
    • Monitor Changes Over Time: Follow-up echocardiograms can track the progression of heart disease and assess the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Chest X-rays: Help visualize heart size, lung changes, and fluid accumulation.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Measures electrical activity in the heart.
  • Blood Tests: To assess for anemia, infection, or organ function.


What Are the Treatment Options?

  • Treatment varies based on the underlying cause and severity.
  • Addressing the root cause of the heart murmur is crucial, as the murmur itself doesn’t result in symptoms.
  • Early detection and appropriate treatment of the underlying disease process can potentially delay progression or even allow for reversal in some cases.
  • Treatments aim to manage the specific condition causing the murmur and may include medications, surgery, or other interventions.


What Is the Prognosis for Dogs with Heart Murmurs?

  • The prognosis depends on factors like the underlying cause, severity, and response to treatment.
  • Regular vet check-ups, adherence to treatment plans, and addressing the underlying cause can improve a dog’s quality of life.
  • Assessing and treating the underlying disease early on can help delay progression and, in some cases, reverse the condition, emphasizing the importance of identifying and managing the cause of the murmur.


Board-Certified Veterinary Cardiologist in Las Vegas

In conclusion, heart murmurs in dogs are abnormal sounds indicating turbulent blood flow within the heart or blood vessels. While not directly causing symptoms, they serve as crucial indicators of underlying conditions such as congenital defects, valvular diseases, cardiomyopathy, infections, or anemia.


Understanding that treatment doesn’t target the murmur itself but focuses on managing the underlying cause is paramount. Early detection, accurate diagnosis, and timely intervention through treatments like medications, surgeries, or lifestyle adjustments can significantly impact a dog’s prognosis.


Regular veterinary check-ups and a collaborative effort between pet owners and veterinarians are key in ensuring the best possible care for dogs with heart murmurs, emphasizing the importance of addressing the root cause to enhance their quality of life and potentially slow or reverse the progression of the condition. If you have any concerns about your pet’s heart health, contact Animal Cardiology Specialists of Nevada to make an appointment.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/11/2024). Photo by Pauline Loroy on Unsplash