Just as is the case with humans, taking certain preventative actions can help to protect and improve your dog’s health.  This does not mean that you need to be concerned about every little thing that could happen, but rather be aware of some of the more dangerous conditions that can adversely affect your dog’s health, such as heart murmurs.

Understanding Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are abnormal heart sounds that are usually detected when listening to the dog’s heart using a stethoscope.  They can be caused by turbulent blood flow in the heart, which causes a sort of “whooshing” sound that can be quiet, moderate or loud.  The loudness of a dog’s heart murmur definitely indicates the amount of turbulent blood flow they have in their heart, but it does not always correlate with the severity of any possible disease.  Many heart murmurs can be harmless, but others can be a sign of heart valve problems, heartworm disease, heart defects, tumors, or even a weakening of the heart muscle.  Either way, it is important to have your dog’s heart murmurs checked out by a veterinarian.  This means that you need to understand the possible signs and symptoms of heart murmurs.

Unfortunately, not all dogs who are suffering from heart conditions, including a heart murmur, show any outward signs of this condition.  That said, heart murmurs that are not innocent normally stem from conditions that have other symptoms, and these are what you can look out for:

● Coughing
● Difficulty breathing
● Rapid breathing
● “Noisy” breathing
● Congestion
● Reluctance to exercise
● Weakness
● Lethargy
● Fainting
● Gray or blue gums
● Abdominal distention
● Collapse

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to get them to the veterinarian right away.  They will use a stethoscope to detect possible heart murmurs, and then they may ask you a series of questions in order to understand your dog’s overall health condition.  If they determine based on their examination and your information that it is necessary, they will likely recommend diagnostic testing in order to diagnose your dog’s exact condition so that treatment can start as soon as possible.  X-rays, electrocardiograms and ultrasounds of the heart may be recommended, in addition to blood tests and other tests.  Depending on the exact condition, treatment plans often include a combination of specialized diet, medications and supportive care.  In some cases where congenital heart defects exist, surgical correction is an option.