FACTS ABOUT HEART MURMURS & VALVE DISORDERS
Includes Birthday Treat Recipe – scroll to bottom
Today my little Valentine celebrates her twelfth birthday! Reese is a puppy mill rescue who has, had a heart condition for as long as we’ve had her.
Although it is scary to learn that your dog has a murmur or any other condition, we hope to share some information that proves that many dogs carry on without ‘missing a beat.’ Reese is one such dog.
The murmur itself is not a disease; it is a specific sound detected when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. It is the sound of extra vibrations of the heart produced as a result of a disturbance in the blood flow. The blood is flowing faster than normal within the heart itself or in one of the two major arteries leaving the heart. In Reese’s case, it sounds like a faint woooshhh, wooshhh, wooshhh sound.
Heart murmurs in dogs can develop at any stage of their life. The implication, however, can be very different depending on the age of the dog when the murmur is first detected.
Often, the murmurs are graded based on a variety of characteristics, including their timing and volume. A grade one murmur, for example, is subtle, and a grade six murmur is loud. Reese’s murmur is currently a grade two. They can change over time, so it is important for your vet to monitor your companion.
Systolic murmurs occur when the heart muscle contracts; diastolic murmurs occur between beats when the heart muscle relaxes, and continuous
to-and-fro murmurs occur throughout all or most of the cardiac cycle.
Grading Scale for Heart Murmurs in Dogs (Pet MD)
Grade 1—barely audible
Grade 2—soft, but easily heard with a stethoscope
Grade 3—intermediate loudness; most murmurs which are related to the mechanics of blood circulation are at least grade three
Grade 4—loud murmur that radiates widely, often including opposite side of chest
Grade 5—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall
Grade 6—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall
What causes murmurs:
Heart defects and infectious, inflammatory or other disease processes are the cause of murmurs. Endocarditis (mitral valve disease) is an inflammatory change of the tissues lining the heart chambers and valves and is a common cause of canine cardiac disease. Stenosis is a narrowing or constriction of an artery or vein that causes increased turbulence of blood flow in the affected area. Dysplasia is an abnormality of development, such as some alteration in size, shape, organization or structure (often occurring at birth).
Other causes of heart murmurs include damage to the muscle. For example, a hole or tear in the interior wall separating the heart chambers. At birth, this could appear as the failure of an important blood passageway closing in the fetal heart. Other causes may include Cardiomyopathy (a primary disease of the heart muscle), Infection due to heartworm disease, Hyperthyroidism, and anemia.
Signs of a Heart Murmur:
Dogs and cats with heart murmurs may show no signs and, as was the case with Reese, the murmur was first detected during a routine examination by her veterinarian.
Depending on the grade, and configuration and association with structural heart disease, your dog’s initial symptoms may only be apparent to your vet. Later on, however, you may notice some coughing, exercise intolerance, or weakness, rapid breathing, and possibly fainting. Our vet advised us to keep an eye on the colour of Reese’s tongue. If it starts to turn even slightly purple, we give her a time out from fetch.
Many murmurs never require medical attention, even if they are pronounced. Causes of minor murmurs are often managed with exercise (may need to be reduced), and diet. Medication or surgery may be necessary if symptoms worsen or for severe heart conditions.
Medication may be required to reduce the burden on the heart and improve function. Medications may also be prescribed to help control blood pressure and fluid retention.
Heart murmurs can occur in both dogs and cats.
Ten years after we rescued her, Reese still wants to play fetch 24/7 and requires no medication for her condition!
As part of the celebrations, we are happy to share these Valentine’s Day/Birthday treats with you.
1/2c natural greek yogurt
1 cup of strawberries
blend, pour into silicone pan, freeze and serve