HEART MURMUR IN DOGS
Heart murmur in dogs.
You don’t need to be a doctor to know that hearts are important, and so it is understandable to be concerned if your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a heart murmur.
Before you panic, however, there are a few things you need to know.
First of all, there are several different types of heart murmurs. Some are more serious than others, and many heart murmurs, and the underlying conditions that cause them, are treatable.
Here are the basics to help you wrap your head around heart murmurs, and remember that you can always ask your veterinarian for clarification about your dog’s condition.
What Is a Heart Murmur?
Dog’s hearts, like ours, pump blood through their bodies. You’ve probably listened to your own heartbeat or a loved one’s at some point in your life, and so you know that hearts beat regularly as they pump the blood that keeps us alive.
When there is a disturbance in this blood flow, it creates an audible noise, called a murmur, that is distinguishable from a regular heartbeat with a stethoscope.
Veterinarians break murmurs down into several different classifications. The most important classifications for you to know are the type and configuration (or quality).
Types of Heart Murmurs
There are three types of murmurs: systolic, diastolic, and continuous. This classification is based on the timing of the murmur. Systolic murmurs, for instance, are murmurs that take place when the heart muscle contracts, whereas diastolic murmurs happen when the heart muscle is relaxed in between beats. Continuous murmurs, on the other hand, happen throughout your dog’s regular heartbeat cycle.
Knowing the type of murmur can help your veterinarian figure out what is causing the murmur.
Heart Murmur Grade
Another tool veterinarians use to help diagnose the cause of the murmur is grading. Heart murmurs in dogs are graded on a scale of one to six.
Grade I murmurs are the least serious and are barely detectable with a stethoscope.
Grade II murmurs are soft, but your veterinarian can hear them with the help of a stethoscope.
Grade III murmurs have a loudness that falls in the middle of grades II and IV. Most murmurs that cause serious problems are at least a grade III.
Grade IV murmurs are loud and can be heard on either side of the chest.
Grade V murmurs are very loud and can be heard with a stethoscope without difficulty, and can also be felt by holding a hand against the dog’s chest.
Grade VI murmurs, like grade V murmurs, are very loud and can be felt through the chest wall, and are the most severe of the heart murmurs.
Ask your doctor listens to your dog’s heart murmur, you may also hear her talk about the configuration of the heart murmur. This describes the way the heart murmur sounds.