How to Diagnose Heart Murmur in Dogs?

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A heart murmur in dogs is an abnormal sound that occurs due to turbulent blood flow within the heart. These murmurs can be a sign of underlying heart conditions, but not all murmurs are indicative of serious issues. Early diagnosis is essential for ensuring proper treatment and maintaining your dog’s overall health. In this article, we will discuss the steps to diagnose a heart murmur in dogs.

Understanding Heart Murmurs

  • Heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being the mildest and 6 the most severe
  • Causes can range from congenital heart defects to acquired heart disease
  • Not all heart murmurs are a cause for concern; some may be benign or “innocent”

Symptoms of Heart Murmur in Dogs

  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Exercise intolerance

Consulting Your Veterinarian

  • Share your concerns and observations with your vet
  • The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, including listening to your dog’s heart
  • Early detection of a heart murmur is crucial for proper treatment

Diagnostic Tests for Heart Murmur

1. Auscultation

  • Listening to the heart using a stethoscope
  • The veterinarian will assess the murmur’s grade, location, and timing

2. Echocardiogram (Ultrasound of the Heart)

  • Non-invasive imaging technique to visualize the heart’s structure and function
  • Can identify the cause and severity of the heart murmur

3. X-Rays

  • Provide images of the heart and surrounding structures
  • Helps to assess heart size and shape, and any lung abnormalities

4. Electrocardiogram (ECG)

  • Records the electrical activity of the heart
  • Detects any abnormal heart rhythms or electrical issues

5. Blood Tests

  • Check for underlying diseases or conditions that might be contributing to the heart murmur
  • Evaluate kidney and liver function, blood cell counts, and other vital markers

Treatment Options for Heart Murmur in Dogs

  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the heart murmur
  • Some cases may only require monitoring and regular check-ups
  • Medications, dietary changes, or surgical interventions might be recommended in more severe cases


Heart murmurs in dogs can have various causes and may or may not be a sign of a serious heart condition. Early diagnosis is key to ensuring your dog receives the appropriate care and treatment. If you suspect your dog may have a heart murmur, consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation and guidance on the next steps.

Dr. Sara Lam

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