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Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

Heart Murmur in Dogs: A Pet Owner’s Guide

By: Kelli Rascoe

A white dog sitting on his owners lap

A medical condition may be diagnosed anytime during your pet’s lifetime, even at birth. Some illnesses are known while others may prompt more questions. Because of this, it is important to be mindful of medical conditions that can affect dogs of all ages. That’s why we created a pet owner’s guide to understand more about heart murmur in dogs with the help of Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold.

What you need to know about heart murmurs in dogs

Three dogs cuddle together under a blanket

What is a heart murmur?

A heart diagnosis can be concerning, but what does it actually mean for your pets? Nold explains what a heart murmur is below.

“A heart murmur indicates the turbulent flow of blood in the heart. If it’s severe enough, it can not only be heard but also felt when you lay your hand over your dog’s heart.”

If you are concerned about your dog, please seek the medical expertise of your veterinarian. They can listen to your dog’s heart and recommend the best course of action for your best friend.

How do dogs get heart murmurs?

Heart murmurs can start at any time during your dog’s development. You might associate a heart condition with only adult or senior dogs, but that’s not always the case. Here Nold breaks down a heart murmur diagnosis and the course of action that may follow.

“Dogs may be born with heart murmurs or they can develop them when they get older. Heart murmurs can have many causes, including defects in the heart wall to thickening of the heart valves. Your veterinarian can get more information about the possible causes of a heart murmur by listening with a stethoscope while taking into account the age and breed of the dog. However, often diagnostics and possibly a referral to a veterinary cardiologist are necessary to get a specific diagnosis.”

Although your dog may receive a heart murmur diagnosis, it does not always mean there is only one treatment plan. Every dog is different, and there are different levels of heart murmur diagnosis ranging from daily medication to surgery.

Signs of a heart murmur

While a heart murmur might sound daunting, your dog might not even look or act sick. That is one of the mysterious things about heart murmurs in dogs. It’s really dependent on the level of severity of the murmur for your dog. Nold points out some signs that may be related to the cause of your murmur:

  • Anemia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heartworm disease
  • Labored breathing
  • Collapsing
  • Valvular heart disease

In addition, “with heartworm disease, you may see signs such as coughing and exercise intolerance. But most often, there are no signs until your veterinarian listens to your pet’s heart,” says Nold. For this reason, this is one of the reasons why yearly wellness exams and check-ups with your veterinarian are so important. Early detection is key for your furry friend.

Heart murmur in dogs: severity and what it means

Not all heart murmurs are the same for every dog. While some heart murmurs are a grade one, which is barely audible, a grade four is pronounced and loud. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the grade of the heart murmur and get more information from the cardiologist from an echocardiogram.

Trupanion claims data

We sat down with the Trupanion data team to further look at heart murmur claims and the cost of medical care for your dog. For example, the average claimed amount for a heart murmur is $352.74, while the Trupanion policy paid $190.50. Also, with over 9,000 pets affected by heart murmurs and with over 48,000 claims for this medical condition, we see that it’s a common occurrence in our insured pets.

Consider the following dog breeds who claim most frequently for heart murmurs:

  • Japanese Chin - over 10 times more likely to claim than the average dog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - 8 times more likely to claim than the average dog
  • Whippet - 5 times more likely to claim than the average dog
  • Brussels Griffon - 3.8 times more likely to claim than the average dog
  • Chihuahua - 3.8 times more likely to claim than the average dog
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A brown & black dog relaxes in the grass

“Spencer was diagnosed with a heart murmur in 2018. With the help of a Trupanion policy we’re able to give her the medical care that she needs. It’s stressful emotionally and financially when you have a sick pet. Because of Trupanion, the financial stress is taken away. We don’t have to make decisions based off finances. We can make decisions based on getting the best care possible for Spencer. Between cardiology appointments and monthly medication, the Trupanion policy has paid $4,039.52 in claims for her heart murmur. We’re so grateful.”

-Kelli, a Trupanion member since 2016

Treatment options

Treatment will be dependent on the severity of your dog’s heart murmur. For instance, “some heart murmurs only need to be monitored and in some cases, like in young puppies, they go away with time. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the heart murmur, which in rare cases may involve surgery. Further, most treatment involves close monitoring until medication becomes necessary,” states Nold.

Heart murmur in dogs may vary depending on your pet

If your dog gets a heart murmur diagnosis, remember every dog’s treatment plan is different. Not every dog will need medication or surgery. Fortunately, with the advancements in veterinary medicine and the help of your veterinarian, your dog can receive the best care possible. And plenty of cuddles and positivity from the family certainly helps!

To learn more about medical insurance for your pet, read this Trupanion dog insurance guide.

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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