Heart murmurs are sounds caused by turbulent blood flow into, inside of or out of the heart. They can result from a heart valve that does not seal completely, allowing some blood to leak into or out of heart chambers when it otherwise shouldn’t. They also can be caused by anatomical defects in the valves or chambers of the heart itself. Murmurs can be easy or difficult to detect, depending upon how loud or pronounced they are.
Heart murmurs in dogs are detected during a thorough veterinary physical examination. The veterinarian will auscult (listen to) a dog’s heart sounds through a stethoscope, which amplifies the sounds produced by the “beats” of the heart. If she hears a murmur, the veterinarian will conduct further testing to try and find the underlying cause of the murmur, and will advise the owner about the available treatment options for the dog’s particular heart problem.
Many dogs with heart murmurs never develop symptoms of heart disease. Murmurs are especially common in young puppies and tend to disappear with age. However, the presence of a murmur can reflect underlying heart disease, and it is wise to work with a veterinarian to identify the cause of the murmur, especially in adult dogs.