Heart murmurs are caused by turbulent blood flow coming into, going through or exiting the heart. If a veterinarian detects a heart murmur, she will need to perform a thorough examination to identify the underlying cause of the abnormal heart sound. Treatment options for heart disease detected by a heart murmur can only be considered once the cause of the murmur is identified.
Heart murmurs cannot be “treated.” Murmurs are simply a clinical finding – a sound heard by a veterinarian through a stethoscope - which can be caused by any number of things. It is the underlying cause of the murmur which must be identified, assessed and addressed by the attending veterinarian. Treatment options will vary depending upon the severity of the underlying condition, once it is determined. Many heart murmurs do not require treatment, even if the murmur is very pronounced. Minor heart murmurs can often be addressed by changes in diet, especially by moving to a low sodium kibble. When a veterinarian detects a heart murmur, especially in an adult dog, she probably will recommend more advanced cardiac testing to assess the overall condition of the dog’s heart, including an echocardiogram (ECG/EKG).
A heart murmur does not necessarily mean that the dog has heart disease. A murmur is simply a sound, detectable through a stethoscope which amplifies the heart sounds, which may or may not reflect anatomical or other heart abnormalities. Heart murmurs cannot be “cured” or corrected. However, if heart disease is the reason for the murmur, the condition may be manageable with medication, exercise and dietary change. The outlook for dogs with heart murmurs can only be determined once the underlying cause of the murmur is identified.