A heart murmur is a fairly common finding on a pet’s physical exam. Murmurs can be heard for the first time at birth or start later on in life.
They can indicate serious and life-threatening heart disease or a mild change in blood flow that will never cause any problems. Cats are notorious for seeming fine and not even having a murmur and then developing heart failure very rapidly. This is one of the reasons we, at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital, recommend very regular preventative care visits and will listen to the heart during every exam.
A murmur means that the bloodflow through the heart is abnormal so we are hearing a whooshing sound instead of a “lub dub”. We will not know why the blood flow is abnormal just by listening alone. An echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, is necessary to evaluate the heart shape, heart valves, large vessels, and direction of blood flow. We are lucky to have Board Certified Veterinary Cardiologists in the area who will come to our facility to perform echocardiograms.
Ginger is a 4 ½ year old mixed breed pit bull. She was adopted by her current owners when she was 4 years old and had already given birth to at least one litter. On her first physical exam with us Dr Wedde heard a heart murmur. She performed some baseline bloodwork and a heartworm test to make sure worms were not causing the heart murmur. Her laboratory tests were unremarkable and did not suggest a reason for her heart issue.
In January 2016, Ginger came to our hospital to have her echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is a very non-invasive procedure and usually takes about ½ hour. The cardiologist found that Ginger has mild narrowing of the valve that controls bloodflow from the heart to the aorta (the largest vessel in the body that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the tissues). This abnormality is an inherited trait and something that Ginger has likely lived with her whole life. The good news is that this narrowing should never cause problems and Ginger does not need medication. Because we evaluated the heart and got the echocardiogram Ginger and her owners can sleep easy knowing that her life should not be impacted by the heart murmur