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What are Heart Murmurs?

A routine check-up with the veterinarian will involve listening to the dog’s heart with a stethoscope. During this test, the veterinarian will make sure that the normal sounds of the heart are present as expected and any abnormal sounds are not. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound indicating turbulence in the flow of blood. While not a disease or condition itself, a heart murmur can be a sign of heart trouble, such as endocarditis, valve abnormalities, or stenosis (narrowing of the arteries).

A heart murmur is a vibration or sound originating from the heart and associated major blood vessels. This sound can be a major diagnostic clue in determining whether there are any abnormalities of the heart or damage to blood vessels.

Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 3 quotes ranging from $1,800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

A heart murmur can present as a number of different sounds, frequently as a “rumble” or burble, and are differentiated according to which stroke of the heart they are associated with (e.g. systole (filling stroke) and diastole (ejection stroke), or whether they are continuous. They are also ranked on intensity, or how loud they appear to be through the stethoscope, the quality (single frequency versus multiple), and whether they increase in intensity or decrease from the start of the murmur.

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Causes of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

  • Abnormality of the heart
  • Swelling/inflammation of the heart
  • Incomplete closing of a valve
  • Narrowing of the arteries
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Diagnosis of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

A heart murmur is diagnosed by listening to the heart with a stethoscope, and using veterinary knowledge to properly categorize and describe the sound such that it can be compared with heart conditions matching the same sound. Many heart conditions are identifiable with a proper comparison of the murmur with additional symptoms. Murmurs are graded from I (very quiet, only audible with a stethoscope in a quiet room) to VI (very loud and accompanied by a vibration the veterinarian can feel on the chest).

Grading Scale
  • Grade I—barely audible
  • Grade II—soft, but able to be heard with a stethoscope
  • Grade III—intermediate loudness; most murmurs which are related to the mechanics of blood circulation are at least grade III
  • Grade IV—loud murmur that radiates widely - including opposite sites of the animals chest wall

  • Grade V—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest wall; commonly the vibration is strong enough to be felt through the chest wall
  • Grade VI—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest. The vibration is absolutely strong enough to be felt through the animal's chest wall

Medical imaging, such as MRI, X-ray, or ultrasound may be employed to image and diagnose a specific condition. Ultrasound in particular is a common, low-cost and non-invasive way to inspect a pet’s heart, also referred to as a cardiac echo. Conductive gel is applied to the pet’s skin, and an imaging wand is moved around the area, instantly showing a picture of the heart and surrounding tissue. This can be done in even a small veterinarian’s office.

A number of conditions can present with heart murmurs, such as a valve abnormality, swelling or inflammation of the heart. These can be detected with medical imaging such as ultrasound. Narrowing of the arteries and tumors on the heart tissue may be seen using ultrasound, but are better examined with an MRI or CT scan. These machines are larger and require your pet to physically enter the machine.

Young dogs occasionally have a faint Grade I heart murmur, which does not signify any illness and is a result of a growing cardiovascular system.

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Treatment of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

A heart murmur is an indicator of the condition of the heart and surrounding arteries. Treatment will vary, but usually is concerned with correcting the cause of the murmur. This may involve surgery in the case of a valve defect, or diet modification in the case of atherosclerosis (constricted arteries). Tumors of the heart may require chemotherapy in addition to surgical removal. Sometimes, small heart or valve defects can cause a quiet murmur, but if medical imaging reveals no serious defect, the condition need not be treated for a normal lifespan.

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Recovery of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

As mentioned previously, the murmur itself is not a condition and outlooks will vary based on the treatment. In general, checkups will be require to monitor the response to treatment and ensure the murmur has not changed or intensified.

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Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 3 quotes ranging from $1,800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Heart Murmurs Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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American Bulldog

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Twelve Weeks

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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None

We took our 12 week old puppy that we just adopted to the vet and she was diagnosed with a stage 6 heart murmur. It wasn’t on her paperwork that we received from her 8 week check up. Could they have missed it or did they just not tell us? We have to take her to a cardiologist and get testing done and possibly surgery. Is there a way that the vet misdiagnosed her? Also, what is the typical cost for a heart surgery and initial exam?

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. That would be difficult to mis-diagnose, and I suspect at her first check up, they may not have listened to her heart. Most initial examinations with specialists are around 100.00, and they would be able to give you a better idea as to the cost of surgery once they know more what needs to be done. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Murmur

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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14 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Breathing Difficulty

I am looking into purchasing a 14 week old boy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who has a stage 3 heart murmur. I have a 2 and a half year old girl cavalier King Charles Spaniel who does not have a murmur yet and wanted a companion for her and that is how I came across this little man. The vet has said to the breeder that he is putting on normal weight and his growth is good and strong. Do you have any advice as to what i should be ask or looking for? I would love to adopt this guy and give him a good life but am worried about cost/ not having a lot of time with him.

Aug. 15, 2018

Murmur's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any heart murmur over 3 should be checked in more detail especially in a breed like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels which are prone to mitral valve disease; first step would be to discuss with the Veterinarian who examined the puppy to get their direct thoughts but further examination would be needed. A murmur tells us something isn’t right, but it doesn’t give us any detail so an echocardiogram would be useful in this case to look at heart structure and function. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 16, 2018

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J.J.

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Yorkie poo

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Panting, Thirst

Hi I have a 13 yr old yorkiepoo who is about 18 lbs. He was diagnosed with a significant heart murmur this year. We took him in to have his teeth cleaned a couple of months ago and his liver enzymes were 1800. The vet tried antibiotics and Sam-e but to no avail he is now at 2000 also his potassium and his creation level is now elevated. The vet then tested for Chushing and that was negative. So they are wanting an ultra sound. My question is could the murmur and the liver problems be related, such are an enlarged heart? He seams fine other than not wanting to eat in the morning sometimes.

Aug. 13, 2018

J.J.'s Owner


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3320 Recommendations

A heart murmur isn’t a diagnosis, just a indication that there is an abnormality in function; the cause for the murmur is a diagnosis. In some causes for heart murmurs, there may be liver enlargements (congestive heart failure) but extra diagnostics are needed to make a diagnosis. You should think about having an ultrasound done to check heart structure (echocardiogram) and a general examination of the abdomen to see if a diagnosis can be made. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 14, 2018

Hi Dr. Turner, Thank you for the advise. We took JJ in for the ultrasound. We received some very sad news. JJ has a rare cancer that has grown into the vena cava. The doctor said that his hormones are going crazy and that is why his liver enzymes are so high. At his age surgery would be very risky with his health, and radiation would also be to hard on him. So we will just keep him home and love him and make sure he is comfy. Thank you for all your help.

Aug. 19, 2018

J.J.'s Owner

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Lexi

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Great Dane

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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None

How often have you heard of an old dogs heart murmur disappearing after 11 months of the first diagnosis? My Great Dane was diagnosed after collapsing (August 2016) 7 year 11 months old after having a funny turn on a hot day. It was enough for the vet to tell me an operation to remove a lump may not be advisable. Roll on to June 2017 and her quarterly check up her murmur was gone. The only meds from the vet she had were for 2 weeks when it started. Couldn't afford £30 A month on top of incontinence meds. The check ups between I was told she may collapse on the spot or she may not wake on one day. Then its gone. This is 2 vet companies that have both heard a murmur and the new vets heard it before my notes were forwarded so I knew I wasn't being conned. Yesterday I had to have my old girl put to sleep. She was 10yr and 11 months old. I asked the vet (Now back to the original vet as they have more compassion) I asked him to check for her murmur. He was the vet that originally diagnosed her. He checked just to humour me as he was looking at me really strange when I asked him to check. He put his stethoscope everywhere. Chuckling I asked "can you not find it"? His response " No I cant". His next question was "how"? I medicated my dog with CBD oil daily for her joints. I T really gave her a spring in her step. This is the only thing that could possibly have cured the cause of her murmur?

July 21, 2018

Lexi's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is possible that the murmur was less pronounced if the shape of her heart changed, but the underlying problem may have still been there. The only way to actually know what is causing the murmur would have been to have an ultrasound of her heart, as the sound of a murmur only tells us that there is an abnormality with blood flow. I am sorry that you had to say goodbye to Lexi, but she certainly did have a long life!

July 22, 2018

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Batman

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mongrel

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18 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Heart Murmour

Hi, I have an 18 month old mongrel who has just been diagnosed with the below: "We have diagnosed Batman with pulmonic stenosis. He unfortunately also has concurrent tricuspid regurgitation and right atrial enlargement. The pressure across his heart valve is 100 mgHg." We are waiting for more information but we live in Singapore and there is no one who specializes in the balloon surgery which is most commonly recommended to treat pulmonic stenosis I believe. We were told the diagnosis yesterday. He has been to the vet regularly since we adopted him at 3 months old and it has never been picked up before, recently however i noticed he was sleeping & panting more than usual so went to get him checked out. We have been told that pulmonic stenosis is bad enough by himself and when doubled up with the other condition it is a bad situation. My question is, have you come across a situation like this? And how stressful would the surgery be on him? What is the increased life expectancy in cases like this? if it is only going to fix one of two problems is it fair to put him through that. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks

June 24, 2018

Batman's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that Batman is having this problem. It would be best to have your veterinarian refer you to a cardiologist, as they will be able to answer your questions more accurately based on his specific conditions. I hope that all goes well for him.

June 24, 2018

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Gisele

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Maltese

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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She Has No Symptoms

My Maltese was 8 when she was diagnosed with a grade 4 heart murmur. Within 6 months she was on the 3 major meds, the baseline dose (minimum). After a major screw up on my vet's end, I researched and started giving her fish oil, CoQ10, vitamin B, taurine, and CBD oil. I was able to cut her back to 1/3 her medication because she showed no symptoms after awhile. Today, took her to the vet (after 8 months on the above) and heart murmur is gone. He is stunned. I just saw that someone else only gave their dog CBD and the murmur went away. That's what I believe did it.

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little boy (LB)

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Shih Tzu

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Lethargic
Pants Very Easy

I had to take my 9 year old little Shih tzu to emergency last night his breathing was distressed. i found out he had a grade 5 murmur. Im making an appointment with a specialist today. I am just sick. I love him so much it hurts and i don't want him to be experiencing any distress or pain . we will see what the specialist says but my heart is breaking! Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/condition/heart-murmurs

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Sable

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Pomeranian

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Took my pommie in to see the vet due for near constant coughing, excessive drinking & peeing inside (despite being let out). They said she had a UTI, gave me antibiotics to treat it & a grade 3 heart murmur w/ a slightly enlarged heart (not a collapsed trachea, which I thought the issue was). They want me to do a echocardiogram but sadly, I just can't afford that. While she appears to be better with regards to appropriately peeing outside, her coughing has gotten worse, especially overnight. Is there anything I can do to calm her coughing & make her comfortable? Or with her age, is it best to think more in terms of goodbye?

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Paddie

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Chihuahua Maltese

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Difficulty Breathing

My 8 year old Chihuahua was diagnosed with a heart murmur today (a grade 5) I'm just wondering if anyone would know if it just happens or would he of had it for a long time and it hasn't been picked up before? He had some teeth removed about 18 months ago so I'm assuming it would of been picked up then while he was under anesthetic

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Margarita

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Chihuahua

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Heart Murmur

My little girl had a perfect senior checkup about 9 months ago. The vet was astonished that she didn’t have a heart murmur since it’s common in smaller breeds. 2 weeks later she had a dental and her heart rate dropped so low that she turned blue and they almost didn’t go through with the procedure. I was horrified because she’s never had this happen during anesthesia. 2 days ago, I took her to a new vet to have another checkup. He detected a grade 3 heart murmur but acted like it wasn’t a big deal. Also, when I lived in a different state last year, I had another chihuahua who got a bad infection and I had to let him go. He was diagnosed with a grade 3 heart murmur and that vet seemed very concerned about it. So my 2 questions are: Can a dog go from no heart murmur to a grade 3 in such a short period of time? And why did one vet think it was a problem and the other doesn’t seem worried about it?

Heart Murmurs Average Cost

From 3 quotes ranging from $1,800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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