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Are Heart Murmurs Genetic in Dogs? What You Need To Know!

sick dog

While no pet parent wants to hear that their beloved dog has a heart murmur, it’s something that can happen at times. It’s important to note that having a heart murmur is very different from experiencing heart failure or heart disease.

Many pet owners have wondered if there was something they could have done to prevent their canine pals’ heart murmur or if it’s genetic instead? Heart murmurs are genetic in dogs, so there usually isn’t anything you could have done differently.

In this article, we’ll discuss heart murmurs in dogs so that you know the causes, types, and anything else you need to know to understand the condition your dog has.

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Types of Heart Murmurs in Dogs

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Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

Heart murmurs come in three different types. These are systolic, diastolic, and continuous. The vet will be able to tell what kind of heart murmur your pet has by the timing of the murmur itself. Knowing what type your dog has will help the vet determine what caused the murmur to begin with:

Diastolic

This type of murmur occurs when the heart relaxes between beats.

Systolic

This type of murmur occurs each time the heart contracts.

Continuous

This type of murmur constantly occurs within the dog’s regular heartbeat cycle.

Your vet will also determine the grade of heart murmur your dog has with a stethoscope. The grades run from grade one to grade six. The stethoscope helps the vet determine the heart murmur’s type and intensity.

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Are Heart Murmurs Genetic in Dogs?

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As previously stated, heart murmurs can be genetic in dogs. There are many factors to consider as to whether the heart murmur is genetic or not. These factors include age, a heart defect in the family, and the predisposition of the breed. It has been observed that dogs who are reaching middle age and elderly large breed dogs are more likely to develop heart murmurs.

There are a few breeds that are predisposed to developing a heart murmur, including:

  • Dalmatian
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Boxer
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Newfoundland

If your pet is one of the breeds above, it’s best to keep regular appointments with your vet so a heart murmur can be caught early.

What Causes Heart Murmurs in Dogs?

As previously stated, some dog breeds have a higher chance of developing a heart murmur than others. While some puppies are born with heart murmurs due to genetics, there are others that have normal hearts at birth but then develop heart murmurs as they get older. This is called acquired genetic heart disease.

There are a few other causes of heart murmurs too, including:
  • Blockage of the heart valves
  • Heart wall defects
  • Tumors
  • Heartworm disease
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  • Endocarditis

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What Are the Symptoms of Heart Problems in Dogs?

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Image Credit: didesign021, Shutterstock

While a dog with a heart murmur can live a long, healthy life, there may come a time when the heart will start to struggle. When this happens, your canine friend may begin to show symptoms of heart problems, which include:

  • Heavy breathing
  • Breathing more rapidly than usual
  • Reduced energy
  • Not wanting to walk anywhere
  • Coughing, especially at night or when he’s resting
  • A racing heart rate
  • Blue-tinged gums (Normal gums are a healthy pink)
  • Poor appetite
  • Fainting
  • Swollen abdomen

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to make an appointment with your local vet right away.

How Are Heart Murmurs Diagnosed in Dogs?

In most cases, a vet will determine the type and grade of your dog’s heart murmur by listening to their heart with a stethoscope. However, there are other tests that your vet might want to do if he thinks there’s an underlying health condition, including:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Doppler
  • Radiograph
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram

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What Is the Treatment for Heart Murmurs in Dogs?

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If your dog is healthy and has no underlying conditions that could cause the heart murmur, then no treatment will be required. However, you do need to make sure to keep your dog active, healthy and to feed them only the highest-quality food for the best results.

If the heart murmur is found to be caused by an underlying health problem, then the focus will be on curing the problem, which will hopefully help with the heart murmur. According to what your vet thinks is the best treatment, this could include a special diet, supportive care, and medication.

If your dog is found to have congenital heart defects, surgery may be required.

What is the Prognosis for Dogs with Heart Murmurs?

It’s highly possible that your dog may never develop heart disease from a heart murmur, so life expectancy would be normal. This is, of course, according to the type and grade of heart murmur the vet has found.

It’s essential to remember, however, that every dog is an individual, and each is going to react differently to a medical condition.

What Can You Do?

If your pet has been diagnosed with a heart murmur, you need to continue to love them and treat them as usual. Make sure you give them any medications your doctor has prescribed the way you should, feed them high-quality food, and make sure they get the amount of exercise your vet recommends.

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Final Thoughts

Heart murmurs in dogs can certainly be genetic in origin. If you feel that your dog may have a heart murmur or see any of the symptoms of heart disease that we listed above, it’s essential to make an appointment right away with your vet for diagnosis and treatment options.


Featured Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shuuterstock

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