Most dogs are very playful and fun to be with that they don’t seem to have any troubles in life. However, dogs can also acquire different health problems just like humans do. Some dogs can also encounter heart problems such as heart murmurs. Below are some of the facts and details that describe heart murmur in dogs.
What are heart Murmurs?
What is a heart murmur? Heart murmur is a type of problem that produces abnormal sounds that is caused by the turbulent flow of blood in and out of the heart. Heart murmur, however, is not considered an illness or a disease rather it is an effect or a reaction to a factor that causes the abnormality of the audible heart sounds. Although not all heart murmurs are considered life threatening, some cases can still be indicative of an underlying problem or heart disease.
Factors that Cause Heart Murmurs in Dogs
Heart murmurs can be a congenital heart problem in dogs. This means that the dog is born with this condition. Nevertheless, heart murmurs can also be acquired later in life. This can be caused by various anatomical heart defects as well as different inflammatory, infectious and disease processes. The heart murmurs are affected primarily by the different heart valves namely the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonic and the aortic valves. These valves can be affected by different heart conditions such as endocarditis, endocardiosis, valvular stenosis or dysplasia. Endocarditis is the inflammation of the tissue lining of the heart chambers and the valves. Endocardiosis is considered a common canine heart disease that is exhibited by the chronic thickening of the free edges of the heart valves that leads to minor leaking and severe malfunction of the heart. Stenosis is described as the narrowing of the body passageway such as the veins and the arteries that leads to the increase of turbulence at the affected area while dysplasia is the abnormality in the development of the heart such as the size, shape and the organization or its structure. The murmurs produced by these heart problems can be identified or detected by a skilled veterinarian with the use of a stethoscope to amplify the heart sounds.
Other causes of heart murmurs in dogs include atrial and ventricular septal defects, patent ductus arteriosus, cardiomyopathy, Tetralogy of Fallot, hyperthyroidism and anemia.
Symptoms Produced by Heart Murmur in Dogs
Heart murmurs can also be accompanied by other heart symptoms especially if it is caused by an underlying heart problem. This heart abnormality can cause nonspecific signs of heart disease and can include one or more of the following symptoms listed below.
• Decrease in the level of activity of dogs
• Exercise intolerance
• Increased panting even at rest
• Frequently agitated
• In respiratory distress which include difficulty or irregular breathing even at rest
• Paleness of the mucous membranes
• Increased coughing
• Presence of pot-bellied appearance and/or abdominal distention
• Presence of fainting spells or collapse
Other cases can suggest the association of heart murmurs with fainting spells or sudden collapse. This is due to the improper distribution of the oxygen to the different tissues of the body through normal blood circulation. This can also produce pale gums which should not be taken lightly since it can show signs of inadequate blood supply. Once these are observed, it is a must that immediate checkup with the veterinarian is provided. These symptoms can already be life threatening for the dogs.
Types of Dogs that are at Risk
Although all dogs can become victims of this heart problem, certain breeds can be considered at higher risk over the others. Puppies also have benign heart murmurs; however, these will usually disappear after 6 months of age and may not require any cause of concern. Some dogs are also prone to certain heart abnormalities such as the chronic vulvar disease among the toy or small breeds like the Chihuahua, Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, Schnauzer and Cocker Spaniel. On the other hand, large and giant breeds such as the Boxer, Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd, Great Dane and the St. Bernard are also predisposed to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is also possible in producing the said murmurs.
Treating Heart Murmurs
Heart murmurs are actually untreatable. These murmurs are considered to be part of the clinical findings, which is a sound heard through the use of stethoscope. However, once the underlying cause of this disease is identified, then the main problem can be treated in order to eliminate these murmurs. These treatment options vary depending on the type of the disease as well as the severity of the condition. Nevertheless, some heart murmurs do not require any treatment at all even if these sounds are very pronounced. Minor heart murmurs can be corrected through simple changes in the diet. Cardiac testing can be done in order to assess the overall condition of the heart, which includes the use of the ECG or the echocardiogram.
These are just some of the facts with regards to the heart murmur condition of dogs. Although some heart murmurs do not pose any threat to the health of the dog, regular check up to the veterinarian’s office is still recommended in order to avoid any problems with the dog’s overall wellness.