Heart murmurs in dogs can be scary. But with a little knowledge and assistance from your vet, you and your dog can live happily together for many years. Here’s what you need to know about dog heart murmurs, plus some tips for managing your pet’s health as she ages.
What Is a Heart Murmur in Dogs?
A heart murmur is a sound produced by blood flowing through the heart. It’s caused by an irregularity in one or more of your dog’s valves, which direct blood flow through the body.
There are several different kinds of murmurs. According to an article published on the NCBI website, one of the most common types is an innocent heart murmur, which affects around 28% of puppies below six months of age. Moreover, the prevalence increases in athletic dog breeds, like whippets, where it is around 58%.
They can be challenging to identify because they vary in intensity and frequency depending on your dog’s activity level, age, health status, and other factors.
Heart murmurs may be caused by congenital disabilities or acquired conditions such as infection or inflammation. The most common type of congenital defect is called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which occurs when there’s a failure for blood vessels connecting arteries with veins to close before birth. This allows oxygenated blood from the mother into the baby but not back out again.
Identifying a Heart Murmur in Your Dog
The first step in managing your dog’s heart murmur is identifying it. If unsure, you can listen for a heart murmur by placing your ear on your pet’s chest and listening for a swishing sound. A normal dog’s heart rate will be between 80-120 beats per minute (bpm), but if he has a murmur, this number may increase or decrease depending on its severity.
If you suspect your puppy has a murmur, it is best to seek immediate medical attention. If his vet identifies any other symptoms, such as coughing or labored breathing accompanied by exercise or excitement, it could also mean he has an underlying condition like chronic bronchitis.
Understanding the Causes and Risks of Heart Murmurs in Dogs
Heart murmurs are common in dogs, and they’re usually harmless. Heart murmurs can be caused by various factors, including the shape of the heart itself and certain types of congenital defects. However, a heart murmur may also indicate that your dog has an underlying disease or condition that could pose serious health risks for him if left untreated.
Suppose you notice changes in your pet’s behavior or demeanor and an abnormal heart rhythm. In that case, it’s essential to see a veterinarian right away so he can run tests. The earlier the diagnosis tests are run, the better it is for your dog.
Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Health With a Heart Murmur
To ensure your dog stays healthy, take him or her to the vet for regular checkups. You should also ensure that any medication your vet prescribes is taken as directed and that you’re feeding your pet a healthy diet. You can do many other things to manage your dog’s health with a heart murmur.
If your dog has a heart murmur, medications can help manage his health. Your veterinarian typically prescribes medications to treat the underlying cause of the murmur or help reduce symptoms. But what medication is used for dogs with a heart murmur?
Since the vet will try to treat the underlying cause, the medication will also change according to what’s causing the heart murmur. However, the most common medication for dogs with heart murmurs is an ACE inhibitor, like Enalapril.
PetCareRX, an online pet medication supplier, states that Enalapril is usually administered once or twice daily, with the total dosage being 0.5 to 1 mg/kg every 12 to 24 hours for dogs. However, the site suggests consulting with your vet before administering Enalapril.
This drug works by preventing angiotensin II from binding to receptors in the kidneys, which lowers blood pressure and improves circulation throughout the body.
ACE inhibitors are typically given once per day by mouth but may need to be adjusted based on response. It’s important not to increase dosage without consulting with your vet first. Once you’ve found what works best for your pet’s needs, they must take their medication as prescribed. It’s also essential to receive regular checkups to address any potential side effects immediately.
Regular Exercise and a Healthy Diet
Exercise is a great way to keep your dog healthy and happy. It can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mood disorders and extend their lifespan. According to National Academies, the recommended amount of vitamin A for healthy dogs is 379 µg, among other vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
While some dogs are naturally more active than others, all dogs benefit from daily walks or play sessions where they can run around. If you’re worried about your pet’s fitness level or have trouble getting him/her up for exercise each day, consider hiring a professional trainer to teach you how to make exercise fun for everyone.
The best way to manage your dog’s health is with regular checkups. If you have a new pet with a heart murmur, you must take them in for their first checkup as soon as possible.
Your veterinarian will do an examination and may recommend additional tests like blood work or imaging studies like X-rays or ultrasounds. They’ll also be able to answer any questions about your pet’s condition, including what diet they should eat and whether any medications could help improve their quality of life.
Regular visits can also help detect underlying issues before they become serious problems. For example, if your dog starts frequently coughing during exercise or suffers from chest pain when running around outside, it could indicate something wrong with their lungs. Such complications should be treated right away so they don’t get worse.
Regardless of whether your dog has a heart murmur, regular checkups are still important. They can help detect any health condition in the early stage. This can prove life-saving in cases of complex issues. That’s why Amy Fontinelle, in her Forbes article, mentions that even a healthy adult dog must visit the vet at least once a year.
You should talk with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your dog’s heart murmur. They can help you understand the cause and how best to manage it. You can research online to find a good veterinarian in your locality.