Heart murmurs in dogs are much more common than most owners realize, and they can range from very slight to severe.
Some dogs that are affected with this condition may show absolutely no signs at all, while others may develop some very serious symptoms.
It they are moderate to severe, they can cause your dog to become very weak and collapse as a result of the murmur and the actual underlying cause.
In other cases, your dog may have a very slow heartbeat, or the complete opposite, a very fast heartbeat.
Heart murmurs in dogs are considered to be what is referred to as an auscultatory sound, which means it is a sound that vibrates through a solid or liquid form of some kind.
In the case of heart murmurs, it may include both as they are created by either a turbulent and disturbed blood flow through your dog’s heart, or their vasculature.
Their vasculature is an arrangement of blood vessels in your dog’s body or an organ of their body.
These murmurs can be heard over any part of their heart and may be caused by a litany of reasons and they will have two distinctive categories
Cardiac causes or non-cardiac causes.
Heart murmurs dogs can be the result of a congenital malformation that has occurred in your dog’s heart or some type of an acquired heart disease.
It may also be the result of some type of disease that is affecting your dog’s heart.
However, it is also helpful to understand that these diseases may not be the result of an underlying heart disease itself.
Heart murmurs in dogs can also be the first indication that you may have that your dog has an abnormal heart valve, some type of heart disease, or what is referred to as a congenital patency.
A congenital patency is an abnormal opening in the heart that is between the sides of the heart.
However, the list does not end there.
It may also be the result of anemia, an abnormal thyroid function, or the result of something much more sinister; heart worm disease.
Heart murmurs in dogs have different classifications that are based on their exact location, how long they last, as well as what is referred to as a character or a grade.
The first classification is the location, and this will refer to the area of the heart the murmur is occurring in, or basically where the sound is actually coming from.
It is most often described by the sounds location to a valve area in your dog’s heart such as their aortic, mitral, pulmonic, or tricuspid locations.
The timing of a heart murmur references the number of times they occur in your dog’s heart beat cycle as is described in one of three ways; systolic, diastolic, or continuous.
The duration of heart murmurs in dogs refers to how long the actual sound lasts within a particular timing cycle, and the character refers to the quality of the sound.
In other words, does it get softer or louder in the natural heart beat cycle?
The grade is perhaps the most important of all of the classifications, as it refers to the actual intensity of the murmur.
The scale for grading intensity is based on a one to six point grading scale, with one being the softest sound and six being the loudest sound.
However, this grading system has one other feature; a possible thrill sound effect.
This refers to a murmur that may be so load that the vibrations that are created can literally be felt when you touch your dog’s chest area, or their chest wall.
In fully understanding heart murmurs in dogs it is also very helpful to understand how they are created.
Each heartbeat in your dog begins as an electrical impulse that will eventually generate a muscular movement somewhere in their body.
Your dog’s heart has one major job, to pump blood thorough their body.
This process includes pumping blood from the body to their heart where it is processed through their lungs, and then returned back to the heart.
Once in the heart, it is than pumped again out into the body.
During this process, it travels through four different parts of their heart called chambers.
Located between these chambers are valves, which is a membrane that that opens and closes to prevent any backward flow of blood.
Heart murmurs in your dog are caused by either some type of a heart muscle abnormality, or a valve malfunction.
If either of these two very basic functions is interrupted or does not function properly, it disrupts the flow of blood in your dog.
This in turn causes a disturbance in the blood flow as well as abnormal sound.
This sound is an actual heart murmur itself.
The actual prognosis will all depend on the severity of sound, and heart murmurs in dogs can be detected very easily by a professional listening to your dog’s heart.
However, there are several warning symptoms that you can watch for that will let you know that something is wrong with your dog.
The first warning sign that you will see is your dog gradually starting to become weak for no apparent reason.
Once this occurs and if it is a heart murmur, your dog may also start to collapse very easily.
Although you may not be able to hear your dog heartbeat, you can very easily check it yourself.
If your dog has a very slow heart rate, a fast heart rate, or an erratic heart rate, these are all signs that your dog may have a heart murmur.
However, there are also two other major warning signs; difficulty in breathing and coughing.
Coughing in dogs is always a frightening sound and is most often associated with some type of a heart problem.
Checking your dog’s heart is really quite simple. You can feel their heartbeat on the left side of their chest, located in the area where if your dog raised their elbow it would touch their chest.
Lay your dog down and calm and quiet them for a few minutes. Once this is done, place your hand over their chest area and feel for their heartbeat.
If you do have a stethoscope you can use one, but most owners will not and this method is quite accurate.
Count the number of heart beats for a period of fifteen seconds, and then multiply that number by four.
During this process it is helpful to understand that your dog’s heart will usually slow down and then speed up with each breath they take, and this is quite normal.
However, if this method does not work and you cannot feel their heartbeat, than check their pulse rate. The best way to do this is to feel their pulse that is associated with their femoral artery.
This is easy to find as it is located inside of their back leg in the groin area.
Once you have located it, place two of your fingers up high on the inside of their thigh, and use the same measurement of counting.
However, you must also understand that the normal heart beat of your dog will vary be their size.
If you have a small dog or puppy, their heart beat should be between 120 to 160 beats per minute.
If your dog is over 30 pounds, it should be between 60 and 120 heart rates per minute. The larger your dog is, the slower their normal heart rate is.
Heart murmurs in dogs can be very mild, or they can be quite severe and cause several complications.
Watching for the symptoms and then understanding how important their heart rate is and how to check it, may potentially save your dog’s life.
If you do observe a slow, fast, or irregular heart rate and if your dog is weak or has collapsed, seek professional help as soon as possible.