A heart murmur consists of an abnormal sound of the heart caused by a disturbed blood flow. The source of this disturbance can be a congenital malformation of the heart or may be due to other heart problems and conditions. A heart murmur is described by veterinarians based on its originating location (aortic, mitral, tricuspid or pulmonic), the timing of the heart beat when it occurs, (systolic, diastolic or continuous), its duration, its character (plateau, regurgitant type, crescendo, decrescendo, crescendo-decrescendo, ejection, or machinery) and most importantly its grade.
The intensity and therefore, the grade of heart murmurs is classified on a scale from one to six, with one being soft and six being loud, explains veterinarian Debra Primovic in an article for Pet Place. A heart murmur can be diagnosed by a veterinarian simply by physical examination using a stethoscope, however, an electrocardiogram or an ultrasound of the heart may give much more information pertaining the extent and potential causes. While some dogs show no symptoms of having a heart murmur, some may develop signs suggesting a malfunction.
Signs of a Heart Murmur in Dogs
Obviously, the most distinct sign of a heart murmur in dogs is the heart murmur itself. Sometimes a vibration or ”thrill” can be felt right over the chest area right above the heart.
Other times, a stethoscope is needed to detect the murmur. As mentioned, some dogs do not develop any signs of heart murmur at all, so the heart murmur may never be detected unless the dog sees a veterinarian. Other times dogs may develop the following symptoms of heart murmurs in dogs:
• Loss of Appetite
• Labored Breathing
• Difficulty Breathing
• Erratic Heart Rate
• Bluish Tint to Gums
What to Do if Your Dog Shows Signs of a Heart Murmur
If your dog exhibits any of the above listed symptoms have him evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. The prognosis of dogs affected by heart murmurs varies widely depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the murmur.
If the heart murmur does not appear to affect your dog’s well being and therefore your dog carries on with its life without visible repercussions, remember to, have your dog still routinely evaluated by your veterinarian to monitor the condition and determine if the underlying cause of the heart murmur may be progressive.
If your dog ever requires anesthesia consider that anesthesia in dogs with heart murmurs can be more or less a risky depending on several factors that need to be evaluated.