Heart Murmurs in Dogs: Prevention and First Aid

Heart Murmurs in Dogs: Prevention and First Aid
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 18 November, 2023

Heart murmurs in dogs are characterized by abnormal sounds that a doctor detects through cardiac auscultation. A healthy heart constantly emits noises related to its functions. Blood circulation or the opening and closing of the cardiac valves produce these sounds.
The strange whistling sound is what characterizes heart murmurs in dogs. The causes associated with this anomaly are:
  • Weakening, clogging or infection of the heart valves.
  • Difficulties circulating blood flow in the cardiac structures
  • Alterations in the muscular walls of the heart.
  • Canine Dirofilariasis (Heartworm infection).
  • Tumors.

Symptoms of heart murmurs in dogs

  • Fatigue, feeling weak and drowsiness.
  • Cough and difficulty breathing.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Alteration of the heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Difficulty with or intolerance to physical activities.
  • Fainting.
  • Alteration in gum color: shades of gray or blue.
German Shepherd getting a checkup

Heart murmurs in dogs: can they be prevented?

Heart diseases have different causes and some cannot be prevented, such as ones caused by genetic predisposition. However, it’s possible to prevent cardiac structures from wearing down if you practice healthy habits with your dog.

–Weight management and a balanced diet

Weight control is essential to the health of all species, including humans, dogs and cats. Unfortunately, obesity has countless associated illnesses and increases the risk of heart damage.
A balanced diet is the determining factor for weight management. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your dog eats good quality, balanced food. Don’t ever let your dog eat human food or foods high in fats and condiments.
Likewise, pay close attention to middle-aged and elderly dogs to ensure they are at an ideal weight. When they reach seven years of age, it’s common for a dog’s metabolism to slow down, which in turn has the dog gain weight. Also, your dog should eat a low-carb and high-protein diet to compensate for his loss of muscle mass.

–Regular physical activity

Physical exercise complements good nutrition for an active and healthy life. Therefore, a healthy young animal must go on daily walks for at least 30 minutes.
However, if the dog has already been diagnosed with any heart conditions, then you should take him on short and controlled walks. Also, you have to have regular breaks in order to return to his normal cardiorespiratory rhythm.
You should not walk on hot surfaces such as asphalt. Ideally, you should walk through gardens, parks or streets with trails made out of dirt and grass.

–Choose healthy snacks

If your best friend suffers from obesity or heart problems, it’s best to remove treats from his diet. To reward him, you should choose healthy treats with low sodium and fat.

–Use a harness, not a collar

Insufficiency and heart murmurs in dogs cause gradual heart enlargement. When that happens, the dog’s trachea is more vulnerable to displacement.
Therefore, you should use a harness and not a collar when you take your dog out for a walk. There are several models and sizes of dog harnesses for all body types and ages.

–Preventative medicine and regular checkups

All dogs, regardless of age, breed or sex, need preventative medicine. This includes periodically visiting the veterinarian, and taking all of his prescriptions for vaccination and deworming.
Dogs that have already been diagnosed with an illness need to go on regular checkups. Therefore, the veterinarian will indicate what tests an animal needs in order to determine the status of his heath.

First aid for heart murmurs in dogs

If a dog collapses, has difficulty breathing, or is in cardiac arrest, you should use CPR. The animal must lie with his right side fully laying down on the ground, while his left side should be open and facing up.

Respiratory recovery

For small dogs, keep their jaws firmly closed. Then, cover the animal’s mouth and snout with your mouth and exhale. Note that this technique can also be used for cats.
The procedure is almost identical for medium and large dogs. When the maneuver is performed effectively, you’ll be able to inflate the dog’s chest with air.
heart murmurs

Cardiac recovery

You have to start by firmly positioning both of your palms on the dog’s ribs. Thenplace them just behind the joint of the left front leg.
For small dogs, intersperse 10 compressions with three short breaths. For large and medium sized dogs, you should ideally intersperse 15 compressions with five short breaths.
Heart murmurs in dogs develop silently and similar to how they develop in humans. Therefore, you must pay close attention to your dog. In addition, Early diagnosis is essential for keep symptoms from worsening and preventing irreversible damage to the animal’s health.

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.