A heart murmur in dogs is defined as an unusual or abnormal heart sound. These abnormal sounds can usually be heard by a veterinarian when they listen to the heart with their stethoscope. Normally, the heart makes a regular “lub-dub” sound. If the veterinarian hears any other abnormal sounds when listening to your dog’s heart, they may diagnose a heart murmur.
Certain dog breeds may be more predisposed to developing heart murmurs and heart disease. Any size of dog breed can get a heart murmur, though, in my experience as a veterinarian, heart murmurs in dogs are more common in small breed dogs. PetMD reported that heart disease is most common in:
There are many potential reasons that your dog may have a heart murmur. Some murmurs are considered innocent murmurs meaning there is not an underlying disease causing the murmur. The AKC reported some of the most common causes of heart murmurs are:
As puppies are developing and growing rapidly, they may occasionally develop a heart murmur. Most commonly, heart murmurs in puppies do not have an underlying cause and will not affect your puppy’s health. These are called innocent or physiologic heart murmurs. On the other hand, a heart murmur in a puppy could indicate a birth defect of the heart. Your veterinarian may recommend an echocardiogram to determine the underlying cause of the heart murmur or they may recommend waiting and watching. Usually, an innocent murmur will go away by 4 to 6 months of age.
If your pet has a heart murmur, this doesn’t mean that they automatically have heart disease. Some pets may not have any symptoms from their heart murmur. Other pets with heart murmurs may have underlying heart disease which can cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms.
The most common signs that your dog’s heart murmur may be associated with heart disease include coughing and difficulty breathing. If your dog is coughing excessively or if the cough sounds moist or wet, this could be a sign that your dog has heart disease. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance reported that the most common signs of heart disease in dogs include:
If your dog is having trouble getting on and off furniture due to a heart murmur, heart disease, or old age, consider getting your pup a PawRamp. The Alpha Paw PawRamp is designed to help your dog get safely up and down from the furniture.
There are six grades of heart murmurs in dogs. Grade I heart murmurs are the quietest and grade VI heart murmurs are the loudest. The following list describes what each grade of heart murmur means for your dog:
The treatment for a heart murmur in dogs depends on if there is an underlying condition causing the heart murmur. Your veterinarian may recommend running a few diagnostic tests to determine if there is an underlying reason for the murmur. The most common tests your veterinarian may recommend include:
Once your veterinarian has determined the underlying cause for the murmur, they may recommend monitoring, or they may recommend medication to treat the underlying cause for the murmur.
The severity of a heart murmur can depend on a variety of factors. Some heart murmurs can be very mild while others can be potentially fatal. Only your veterinarian will be able to determine how serious a heart murmur is for your dog.
Some dogs can live their entire life with a heart murmur and have no problems. Other dogs may have underlying diseases associated with their heart murmurs. A heart murmur can be potentially fatal if it is associated with heart failure and underlying heart disease.
This depends on the severity of the heart murmur. If your dog has a very serious heart murmur and underlying disease of the heart, your dog may not be able to live very long with this condition. If your dog has a physiologic murmur or an innocent murmur with no underlying diseases, they may live a long and normal life. As every heart murmur in dogs is unique, it is important to consult with your veterinarian about the prognosis for your dog.
The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.