This article is not meant as medical advice. I’m not an animal healthcare expert. Instead, I’m a dog Mom sharing her experience on taking care of her own 16-year-old dog.
So anything written here is my personal opinion only. Always look to your vet’s wisdom and guidance when dealing with a heart murmur.
A few years ago, we learned our dog had probable heart murmur. This potential problem was picked up during a routine vet visit. The vet thought she might have heard something. But, because our dog was so agitated at the time of his examination, it wasn’t a definitive diagnosis.
Now, though, the vet is sure we’re dealing with a heart murmur. We see no obvious signs of this. It doesn’t appear to have impacted our dog’s longevity. We just make sure when we walk him not to overdo it.
My Dog Has Heart Murmur Symptoms
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Because our was showing no outward symptoms of heart disease, we decided against further testing. This was a very personal decision, and I’m not giving medical advice or suggesting you skip testing. We took into account the fact our dog was already elderly when the murmur was picked up. (I can’t stress enough the necessity of working with your vet.)
Another reason we opted out is because our dog wouldn’t be taking any of the pharmaceuticals that might be prescribed. Also, if it was serious, the anxiety of the tests might be enough to cause a bigger problem. (You’d have to know our dog. He was adopted at the age of three. He’s extremely skittish around other animals, probably because we got him from a pound. His entire body shakes when we bring him to the vet.)
But we’re still being careful. Our dog is now 16. So, instead of running him, as we used to do, we now take him on relatively gentle walks. We’ve been doing this ever since his potential problem was detected. However, now that he’s so old he’s slowed down.
What To Do When Your Dog Has a Heart Murmur
We are also very careful with his diet. For a while he hate a high-quality brand of grain free kibble. Some holistic dog experts highly recommend grain-free diets for dogs. We put him on a special diet because he was drinking a lot of water, classic signs of blood sugar problems. This disturbing symptom disappeared as soon as he went grain free.
However, it’s really important to work with your vet while doing a diet change. This is especially so if your dog is elderly, has digestive problems or other chronic health problems. The brand of kibble you see below sustained our dog very well for about a year. Then he lost his taste for it. It was an easy bridge to a more organic whole foods, people food diet, which we eventually put him on due to his advanced age.
Taste of the Wild Grain Free Kibble
Many alternative health experts (people and canine) will tell you that it’s excess carbohydrates, and not animal fat that leads to inflammation. I like to think our dog’s good diet is contributing to his longevity, despite the fact he might have a heart murmur.
If your dog does have a heart murmur, it might not hurt to seek out an alternative vet, who can possibly help you outline a drug-free approach. For instance, we did see some excessive panting a few years ago. This could have been related to the heart murmur. Well selected homeopathic remedies seem to have improved his overall health. We don’t hear this much any more.
Some vets may also recommend CoQ10 for dogs with heart murmur. Or, some vets may recommend this vitamin-like substance for all their elderly canine patients.
Dog Heart Murmur Prognosis
Canine heart murmurs are graded on a scale of 1 to 6. The lower the number, the more benign the condition. For instance, heart murmurs are often picked up in puppies. They are usually transient, and disappear, on their own, by the time a dog is 14 weeks.
However, if the murmur is louder, and of a higher grade, usually additional tests are recommended, especially with a young animal. This could indicate a more serious conditions, including birth defects.
In older animals, heart murmur may be a progressive condition. But it might progress slowly, as the heart mitral valve degenerates with age. With our elderly dog, this, fortunately, appears to be happening slowly. We’re very strict about his diet. Actually, he’s on a classic anti-inflammatory diet, at least for dogs. Packing his food bowl with corn and other cheap fillers was not going to lead to better health.
What Happens When Your Dog Has a Heart Murmur
So, if your elderly dog has been diagnosed with heart murmur, or is showing symptoms, please consider working with your vet to upgrade his diet.
Don’t forget to ask about a grain-free diet. If your vet dismisses the idea, it can’t hurt to get a second opinion from a practitioner who takes a more integrative approach.
Also, please remember I’m not a medical expert. I’m just a dog owner who is passionate about natural healthcare and a grain-free diet for dogs.
Update: Our dog ate Taste of the Wild for nearly a year. Then he lost his taste for this brand. We reluctantly had to switch. Later, at the age of 14, he lost his taste for all kibble. Given his advanced age, we decided to feed him much more organic people food. We haven’t heard any complaints.
We recently brought him to the vet and he definitely does have a heart murmur. But since he’s so elderly it hasn’t affected his lifespan. He’s healthy, active and alert. So, at the moment, we’re not terribly worried about this condition. Also, he was recently diagnosed with cancer, a condition we’re fighting with natural remedies.