At the Heart of it All

Pets hold a special place in our hearts, so let’s learn how to take better care of theirs.
Everyone has nervously watched as your veterinarian quietly listens to your pet’s heart. Some of us have even heard the dreaded phase “ Fido has a heart murmur.” When I uncovered a heart murmur in my own kitty Chance last year during his annual checkup, I had a moment of disbelief. I made Dr. Seals verify what I was hearing. When it comes to my own pets all my years of training go out the window and I became the nervous client waiting to hear the news. However, I hadn’t made a mistake and my baby was diagnosed with early heart disease. So what exactly is a heart murmur and what can we do to keep our pets healthy?

While stroke and heart attack are fairly uncommon in our four-legged friends, murmurs are frequently discovered. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound heard with a stethoscope. Instead of the distinct “Lub – Dub”, we hear a ”Lub – whoosh – Dub”. This extra sound indicates turbulent blood flow. Some of the causes include a leaky heart valve, thickened heart muscle, anemia, or an innocent murmur heard in puppies and kittens.
How do we find out the cause of the heart murmur? The three most common tests veterinarians run include a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and blood pressure screen. The chest x-ray allows the veterinarian to evaluate heart size and the surrounding lung fields for potential fluid accumulation, a sign of congestive heart failure.

The echocardiogram allows us to visualize the inside of the heart including the heart valves, the four chambers and blood flow. All of us know why blood pressure is important.

While some murmurs are silent and will only be detected by your veterinarian, others present with symptoms such as a cough, exercise intolerance, or even collapsing episodes.
So how do we keep our pets heart healthy? The best way to prevent heart disease is by maintaining proper body weight for your pet, exercise your pet regularly, keep up with dental care, and take your pet in for a yearly checkup.

Brittany Novosad, DVM

bnovosad@fosteranimalhospital.com
(704) 786-0104

Foster Animal Hospital
Concord, NC 28027