What Causes Heart Murmurs?

I was just told that my two-year-old Rottweiler has a heart murmur. The vet explained what his heart is doing and not doing. I really...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 28th 2008


I was just told that my two-year-old Rottweiler has
a heart murmur. The vet explained what his heart is
doing and not doing. I really don’t understand.
Could you explain this to me? Is it
life-threatening? All she did was listen through a
stethoscope. She said she could hear
the back flow from the second beat not getting the
full closure so not all blood is going where it is
supposed to go…..???? I am a little confused.
Any advice would help. Thank you!

Lori
Redding, CA

Heart murmurs occur when blood flows through the heart in a turbulent manner. Instead of moving smoothly through the heart, the blood flows in an irregular fashion, causing a swooshing noise that is audible through a stethoscope.

Some heart murmurs are harmless. For instance, some pets are born with mild irregularities in their hearts. These irregularities lead to heart murmurs, but they don’t cause symptoms or problems.

Other heart murmurs are not so innocuous. Leaking valves in the heart cause murmurs. They also cause blood to flow in an irregular fashion and may lead to heart failure. More serious congenital heart irregularities can cause murmurs. And some dogs with a serious syndrome called cardiomyopathy have heart murmurs.

The best option for your dog is to determine what is causing the murmur. If it is benign, you can rest easy. If a problem exists, you should treat it as soon as possible.

A combination of X-rays, ECG and ultrasound of the heart (echocardiography) will almost certainly identify the cause of the murmur. You may need to travel to a specialist facility for some of these tests. However, in my opinion it will be worth the effort.

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