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Heart Murmur Detected in Your Pet? What Now?

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You’ve given your heart to your pet. But are you taking optimal care of your furry friend’s heart?

What Is a Heart Murmur?

Annual wellness checkups with a primary care veterinarian are essential—they will identify any emerging disease processes early. During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound caused by high velocity—a disruption in blood flow, creating a whooshing sound. Although a heart murmur does not conclusively confirm heart disease, it may reflect heart disease and definitely warrants further investigation. As such, your veterinarian will recommend diagnostic tests to determine the heart murmur’s cause.

Your primary care veterinarian will likely refer your pet to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist for testing and/or treatment. Don’t panic: a murmur might not indicate anything serious. However, it’s best to get tested right away. That way, if your pet’s condition needs ongoing management, treatment can begin right away and it may even slow the progression of the disease. Tests will include echocardiography (heart ultrasound), chest X-rays, electrocardiography (ECG) and a complete blood count. Cardiologists have completed at least three years of advanced training in the heart and circulatory system; as such, they are experts in both diagnosing and treating heart and lung disease in pets.

Which Pets Are at Risk?

Middle-Aged to Older At-Risk Dog Breeds
Do you have a spaniel, terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane, Boxer, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatians, or Portuguese Water Dog?

Heart murmurs in these breeds could signal heart disease. Again, be sure to consult with a cardiologist if a murmur has been discovered.

Middle-Aged to Older At-Risk Cat Breeds
These cat breeds are predisposed to cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease): the American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Ragdoll, and Devon Rex. Your pet’s cardiologist will perform an echocardiogram to determine whether cardiomyopathy is present.

Even though some breeds are genetically predisposed to heart disease, any pet can develop a murmur. If your primary care veterinarian has detected a heart murmur in your dog or cat, seek the expertise of a board-certified veterinary cardiologist. You and the specialist can then review and initiate an appropriate treatment plan for your pet.

Our Board-Certified Veterinary Oncologists

VSEC has two veterinary cardiologists on staff, Dr. Nick Russell and Dr. Reid Nakamura. To make an appointment, please call 805.492.2436 or e-mail info@vsecto.com.

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