Heart Murmurs in Dogs: What You Need to Know
Heart murmurs in dogs are something that would rightly cause great concern for any owner whose beloved canine pal has been recently diagnosed with. If your dog has been diagnosed with a common heart murmur problem, it may be a sign of canine cardiac disease. Treatment for heart murmurs in dogs exist if properly diagnosed and detected in a timely fashion.
What is a Heart Murmur in Dogs?
According to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, a heart murmur results from blood flow running through the heart that is abnormal. Some heart murmurs are perfectly normal while others, similar to those heard in ageing dogs, may be a sign that some type of heart disease is prevalent. The most common cardiac diseases in dogs include:
1. Congenital birth defects that show up when a puppy is young.
2. Degenerative valve disease (heart valve leaks) that mostly affect older or middle-aged dogs.
3. Loss of heart muscle tissue that is typically seen in young dogs or middle-aged larger dog breeds.
Detecting Heart Murmurs / Heart Disease in Dogs
Heart disease may not show up or be detected until it has reached a point where your dog experiences heart failure, collapse, or even sudden death. Your veterinarian can certainly check your dog out for heart murmurs by using a stethoscope. However, as the dog owner, your responsibility is to be on alert for certain signs such as difficulty in breathing, coughing, intolerance to exercise, or a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid retention).
In D.J. Thompson's: A practitioner's approach to canine cardiology, the guidance on detection and treatment of canine heart murmur says:
Cardiology is an exciting subject and recent advances in therapy have improved not only the life expectancy of dogs with heart disease but also the quality of life. The most important factor is to recognize that the problem is cardiac in origin. The elderly animal with a cough and a heartmurmur must be examined and investigated thoroughly before assuming that the murmur and cough are connected. Overall incidence of heart disease has been estimated at 11 · 3% with the congenital type accounting for 0 · 5% (Detweiler & Patterson, 1965).
Congenital heart disease should be detected early in life, and certainly no later than at presentation of the puppy for primary vaccination, but will only be diagnosed if the puppy is thoroughly auscultated. The more common congenital cardiac defects, in approximate order of incidence, are patent ductus arteriosus, pulmonic stenosis, aortic stenosis, persistent right aortic arch, ventricular septal defect, tetralogy of Fallot and atrial septal defect (Patterson, 1965). Early diagnosis is important as, particularly with patent ductus, surgery performed at an early stage can be curative.
Looking at the guidance above, you'll see that early detection is crucial but treatment is viable if detected in time and given the proper surgical or medicinal intervention by a vet.
Canine cardiac disease can further be checked for by specific information regarding your dog's breed type, age, chest x-rays, blood pressure measurements, and EKG readings. For a definitive diagnosis, an ultrasound of your dog's heart is required.
Treatment For Heart Disease in Dogs
Treating your dog back to good health will depend entirely upon the stage of the disease and how severely it has affected other parts of the body. If your puppy is young and has a congenital defect, it may be surgically removed.
Heart disease that is acquired later in your dog's life requires heavy lifestyle management and changes in living. Such changes include maintaining a healthy body weight, additional exercise (or reduced activity depending upon your dog's condition), special cardiac diets, and specific medications that can be used to reduce stress put on your dog's heart from his condition.
The prognosis for dogs that have canine heart disease will vary. Some dogs may be fortunate enough to have successful long-term care. Others may have a shorter lifespan ranging from a few weeks to a few years. It is important to keep in mind that the earlier your dog's condition is assessed, the easier it will be to treat and the odds will be greater that your dog or puppy will enjoy a long, healthy life.
Sarah Fortrell advises on the cause and treatment for heart murmur in dogs:
There are several possible reasons for heart murmur. One is that the puppy is born with a defect in his heart. Congestive heart failure in dogs is distressing but about 3 million dogs a year are diagnosed with it. While it cannot be completely cured, there are treatments that can be done that can help your dog enjoy a good quality of life nonetheless.
Anemia caused by dog parasites can also be the cause of heart murmur in dogs. You must make it a point to bathe your dog regularly and comb his hair with a fine tooth comb to prevent parasite infestation. Mitral valve disease is another possible cause. High blood pressure, age or compounding heart conditions produce weakened mitral valves. The outcome of this is that instead of pumping blood out like it should, blood leaks to the atrium and the consequence is audible heart murmur sounds. This is the most dangerous cause and must be attended to as soon as possible.
Be vigilant if your dog gets tired easily, has fainting spells and has difficulty breathing. These are a few signs of heart murmur. He will not want to eat and move around much. A dog with heart murmur will also likely have bluish/gray gums and have a problem with water retention. If you these behavioral and physical symptoms manifest in your dog, you must bring him to the vet for a check-up immediately.
For every owner, ensuring your dog's heart is healthy is something you can do via regular vet check ups, observing your dog's day to day behaviour, paying particular attention to their energy and activity levels and providing the best nutrition for your dog's age, breed type and lifestyle.
Having a dog diagnosed with a heart murmur is not the end of the world. Modern veterinary treatment and medicinal intervention can provide your dog with a management approach to this condition. The key is to be vigilant and make sure your dog receives the best medical attention possible (dog insurance would be a good investment for any dog owner, but particular those who own breeds susceptible to congenital health problems).