Heart murmurs in puppies and dogs are more common than many people realize. 40 percent of puppies taken in for a health certificate have a slight heart murmur. So why does this happen and what can you do to prevent it?
Is it Normal for Puppies to Have Heart Murmurs?
To understand what causes a puppy murmur, it’s first important to understand what normal blood flow should be.
At birth, the blood has to start flowing through the lungs for the first time. None has up to this point. At birth, a valve between the upper heart chambers (Atrium) slams shut and normal heart and lung blood flow begins. The right atrium, also known as the right upper chamber of the heart, pushes blood to the lung. The blood is then pushed through the lungs the baby breathes and oxygenates the blood, which then goes back to the left side of the heart and out to body.
A heart murmur occurs when the valve between the right and left atrium of the heart does not close completely and leaks. That results in a slight swish.
Genetics can also lead to a heart murmur, but it is less common. When the cause is genetic there is usually one in the litter and it is much more serious. The puppy can suffer from heart failure due to a hole in their lower heart. This is a much more prominent puppy heart murmur and your veterinarian will pick this up.
What Can You Do for a Puppy With a Heart Murmur?
The best way to cure minor puppy heart murmurs is to be sure the puppies are growing strong and are born fighting to live. Puppies that grow well have fewer murmurs; the upper chamber valve closes and the murmur goes away!
If puppies are normal with minor heart murmurs, encourage eating and exercise. Grow the puppies well two more weeks and recheck; most murmurs will close. We want puppies chubby not only because people like chubby puppies, but also because you find fewer murmurs in a mature chubby puppy!
If you have any questions on heart murmurs or any other pet health concerns, don’t hesitate to give us a call for help!
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Written by: Donald Bramlage, DVM
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.