In most homes, the dog is not just a pet but also a part of the family. As a member of the family, its health is very important to us. Whenever our furry friend is not feeling well, it can be a cause for major concern. One thing that is particularly distressing for a pet owner is to find your pet has an irregular heartbeat or heart murmur. Heart murmurs can be benign or an indicator of more serious issue.
Heart murmurs can occur for many reasons; the first is a birth defect where the puppy is born with a mitral valve problem. The mitral valve opens to allow blood into the left ventrical during constriction and closes at the end to prevent backflow. When backflow occurs blood backs up along the whole cardiovascular system but especially the in the veins that drain the lungs. This causes edema or fluid retention in the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body. Other common causes of heart murmurs include but are not limited to muscular degeneration, parasite infestation or a hole in the heart.
Diagnosing a heart murmur may seem simple as listening to your pet’s heart beat but some murmurs are so faint there are barely perceptible. Even with a stethoscope, they may be hard to hear. If your veterinarian thinks, your pet has a murmur he may order some further tests.
EKG will most likely be the first test administered. An electrocardiogram can be helpful to determine where in the heart a murmur is located and how severe it is. In addition to the EKG a veterinarian may do chest x-rays or an ultrasound to look at the condition of the heart. Veterinarians generally prefer to use the ultrasound technology as it gives a better overall picture of the heart and its condition.
Once the heart has been thoroughly examined and the underlying cause is determined, it is time to discuss treatment options. In the case of a murmur from birth the best course of action is to wait and see if the problem corrects itself, as happens quite often. Should the cause be physical in nature like a hole in the heart then surgery will often be helpful.
Whatever course of action decided upon the condition should be continually monitored as it can develop into congestive heart failure. The failure occurs when the necessary blood does not reach the muscles leading to fatigue. In addition, the build up of fluid around the lungs will cause coughing and breathing complications or even death. At this point, you are not really treating the failure as much as monitoring it. With heart failure, you will want to be sure your pet is not over exerted or over heated and high humidity and altitude should also be avoided. Top that off with a sensible low sodium diet and you will have many more years with your beloved pet.