Can Dogs with a Heart Murmur Live a Normal Life?

Not all heart murmurs in your canine companions are detrimental, and most dogs can live a long and healthy life when given the right type of care.

Feb 4, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
can dogs with a heart murmur live normal life

Hearing that your precious pooch has an issue with their heart is upsetting, but the good news is that most types of murmurs are treatable. You may wonder whether they’ll be healthy or reach a ripe old age. Fortunately, with the proper care, many dogs with murmurs go on to be playful and healthy. If your dog has a cardiac condition, your veterinarian will determine what the problem is. Let’s go on to answer the question: can dogs with a heart murmur live a normal life?

What Happens When a Dog Has a Heart Murmur?

male veterinarian using a stethoscope to examine a siberian husky
A veterinarian can identify cardiac issues in pets.

When blood doesn’t move properly through your pet’s heart, it produces irregular beats that are better known as murmurs. To understand this process, we must consider the heart’s four chambers and valves that work to regulate this flow. If the valves don’t open and close as they should or blood gushes along the chambers, it creates dysfunction that can be slight or severe. Minor murmurs aren’t easily detected, while others cause significant problems and are so intense that they vibrate through the chest. Based on their sound and which parts of the heart are affected, doctors can determine whether murmurs are life-threatening.

How Does a Dog Develop a Heart Murmur?

a pug lying on a blue blanket
Some dogs are born with defective hearts.

A heart murmur happens when the structure and function of this organ are abnormal. In some cases, it’s linked to a dysfunctional valve that doesn’t facilitate proper blood flow, while others are caused by narrow arteries and vessels. Dogs can be born with abnormal valves or holes between the chambers of the heart, which is known as congenital. Where the murmur is very slight and not concerned with the well-being of pets, it is called physiologic. An infection of the heart and an abundance of parasites, such as ticks and fleas, may lead to murmurs.

Lifestyle factors, including obesity and extreme weight loss, have been associated with the development of murmurs in dogs. In older and typically small breed dogs, the blood flowing through the heart valves can move in the opposite direction, which causes the heart to weaken. As the heart deteriorates, it can lead to complete failure, so it’s always necessary for pets to have their routine or annual veterinary examinations. But whether your canine companion is born with a murmur or develops one later in life, it isn’t all bad news.

Do Puppies Get Heart Murmurs?

french bulldog puppy sitting on a table at a veterinary clinic
A young dog may outgrow a murmur.

Yes, puppies can be born with a congenital heart murmur that’s detected by the time they turn 6 weeks of age. In such young dogs, these murmurs are usually of little concern, and they resolve on their own as puppies mature. If a puppy does not recover from a murmur by 6 months, a veterinarian will investigate whether more significant heart issues are apparent. Where only a mild murmur is present, you may never know that your puppy had a problem with their heart in the first place. But young dogs that do not outgrow these issues will require lifelong monitoring by their veterinarian. This doesn’t mean they can’t do all the things a normal dog would. Based on the reason for their cardiac condition, puppies will receive a unique treatment plan.

What are the Symptoms of Heart Murmurs in Dogs?

old golden retriever panting
Symptoms vary depending on the type of heart defect.

Dogs with a slight or benign murmur may not show any symptoms, and this condition will only be detected upon physical examination. Where the cardiac problem is more significant, you may see signs such as sudden and chronic coughing and constant panting, even while relaxed. Some dogs will be low-energy, and the color of their gums might change from pink to blue or white. In more severe instances, heart murmurs can cause dogs to collapse after playing or exercising due to the disruption in oxygen levels in the body. To determine what’s wrong with the heart, veterinarians perform ultrasounds and blood tests.

How are Heart Murmurs in Dogs Treated?

veterinarian in blue uniform listening to the heart of collie puppy
Constant monitoring is required where heart conditions exist.

The management of murmurs depends on how severe they are and whether they affect your pet’s well-being. Benign murmurs don’t need intervention, but your vet will be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s condition. More significant murmurs that involve some type of heart disease are treated with chronic medication and lifestyle changes, such as a modified doggy diet. Where structures of the heart are defective, for example, a faulty valve is causing turbulent blood flow, veterinarians may consider surgery to correct the defect. The prognosis depends on the type of murmur; however, pets with more severe murmurs have a shorter lifespan due to the risk of heart failure.

Can You Exercise a Dog with a Heart Murmur?

woman running with siberian husky on beach
Even dogs with heart murmurs can enjoy controlled exercise.

Yes, dogs with a mild or slight murmur can continue to enjoy walks, exercises, and playtime as any other dog would. Pets with a high-grade murmur cannot participate in intense activities that involve constant running and long walks. They can, however, still go for short walks with breaks in between when they get tired.

If you receive the news that your fur companion has a heart murmur, it’s not the end of the road. Slight murmurs don’t limit your pet in any way and should be monitored by your veterinarian during a routine examination to reveal any changes. Dogs with higher-grade cardiac conditions will require a little more patience and quiet time. With the appropriate care, they too can go on to live a happy life.

Caring for a Dog with a Heart Murmur

man with red shirt hugging a golden retriever
Harmless heart murmurs don’t affect the quality of life of pets.

Caring for a dog with a murmur depends on how severe it is. Heart murmurs are measured according to a scale, or grade, that ranges from 1 to 6. Dogs that have a grade 2 or lower murmur, can do most of the activities that healthy pets would. If your dog faints during activity, alert your vet immediately so they can determine whether more significant cardiac issues are present. You might be concerned about your dog’s heart, but take comfort in the fact that most murmurs won’t stop them from living a normal life. With the help of your veterinarian, dogs that need treatment will be monitored and provided medical support throughout their lives.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.