Dr. Brittany Bueter
Hebron Animal Hospital- Contact Us

What is a dog heart murmur?

A heart murmur is a noise that you hear with the valves, how they're working in the heart. So you hear it with your stethoscope. Really bad ones, sometimes you can actually see or feel through the body wall, but the murmur itself is the sound that you hear when the heart beats.

What is a dog cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is heart disease, whether it be a thickening of the heart wall or a dilation or enlargement of the heart chambers. Also in cats, they can get similar. So dogs usually get dilated and cats usually get hypertrophic, meaning thickened.

Can a diet affect Reba's heart health?

It actually can. You guys have probably all seen over the last couple of years in the news, they've talked about the grain-free diets and things. They have actually done some studies where they're relating grain-free diets to some heart disease in some breeds. Usually it's the pea or the lentil-based diets. They don't have enough taurine in them and taurine is one of the essential elements that helps the heart to contract and do its job. So we need to make sure that they're on a grain-inclusive diet as long as their body agrees with it. If not, we need to be supplementing taurine.

What does it mean for a dog to have an enlarged heart?

An enlarged heart means the heart's working harder, whether again, if it's the wall's thicker so it can't contract as well because there's not enough room or if the heart itself is dilated and bigger and it can't push the blood flow like it should be because there's too much space there. So it's kind of like your bicep. When you work out your biceps, it gets bigger. Same thing with the heart. When the heart's working too hard, it gets bigger and then it doesn't work as well.

And how would we treat an enlarged heart?

You don't always have to treat an enlarged heart. It kind of depends on the clinical signs that you're seeing in your pet, coughing, exercise intolerance, labored breathing or not wanting to lay down and rest, wanting to sit up more, struggling kind of to be on their side. So dogs that don't have any clinical signs, sometimes they don't need to be on heart meds yet because some heart meds can actually make the heart work harder when it doesn't need to be. So it's routine visits with your vet, communication with your vet to see how the heart is functioning and how it's affecting the body and the lifestyle of the pet.

What is heart failure in dogs?

Heart failure is whenever the heart actually gets to the point where it can't compensate anymore. So they start to build fluid up in their lungs, sometimes in their bellies because the heart's not able to push everything out appropriately. So those guys do have to definitely be on medications to help the heart to do its job, to change the blood pressure and the blood flow through the cardiovascular system.

And how would I know if Reba did have heart issues?

Take her to the vet. So again, those clinical signs at home of the coughing, sometimes restlessness, sometimes they drink a lot and pee a lot more, not wanting to go on their normal walks or play like they used to, or like the heavy breathing with the, it's kind of a little bit of an increased effort when they do their breathing too.

How are heart murmurs in dogs diagnosed?

Whenever you listen to them with your stethoscope, the heart always has normal sounds, but whenever there's an abnormal sound, it's usually a little bit of like a whoosh or a click sound. Those are abnormal. And then you grade that with your ears based on the level of abnormality that you're hearing.

What does an echocardiogram show that an x-ray wouldn't?

An X-ray can show you that your heart is enlarged and maybe potentially which chamber is enlarged. There's four different chambers, but it doesn't necessarily tell you why, or if it's enlarged again because of size of the whole heart or size of the thickness of the wall. It also doesn't tell you if there's like a major blood vessel that is contributing to the heart having to work harder. So an echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart that actually shows you each chamber, shows you what the valves look like, shows you what the blood vessels look like as they're going in and out of the heart. So you can better pinpoint the exact area of issue to better treat.

What is the prognosis for dogs with heart issues?

There are so many different types of heart issues. Some of them can be from birth. Some of them can be developed. Some can be inherited or again, nutritional or dietary. So honestly, it really just depends on the root cause and how quickly it's caught so that you can get treatment on board as soon as possible.

What is a board certified cardiologist?

A board certified cardiologist is a veterinarian that has done three to four extra years of school. So all they do is cardiology.

Do I need a cardiologist to diagnose heart issues in my dog?

You don't need a cardiologist to diagnose heart issues, but sometimes we send pets to the cardiologist when they have other factors in their body that do not agree maybe with the routine or the normal heart medications. There are also some types of heart diseases that are intermittent and not consistent. So sometimes that's better diagnosed with something called a Holter monitor, which the cardiologist put on and they actually leave them on for a few days to see what the heart does over time or other disease processes. Like if the heart potentially has to be surgically fixed or something like that, that's something that the cardiologist would do.

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