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Dog Heart Murmur Symptoms

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inspection of heart murmurs with older dog

This article was updated on August 30th, 2022

A heart murmur simply refers to the presence of abnormal sound produced by the heart, heard when listening with a stethoscope. These extra sounds come from turbulent blood flow within the chambers of the heart and usually appear and disappear between the normal beating sounds of the heart. A murmur can be high-pitched, low-pitched, long or short, or can even be continuous/constant.

The presence of a heart murmur doesn’t always indicate disease; some low-grade heart murmurs can be innocent such as physiological murmurs which can come and go with changes in heart rate. However, many heart murmurs do indicate a defect within the heart which can eventually lead to heart failure.

Dog heart murmur symptoms

  • chronic hacking cough
  • labored breathing
  • poor exercise ability
  • fainting
  • a bluish tinge to the tongue or gums
  • trying to clear the throat
  • lack of stamina

A murmur may be accompanied by other symptoms if your dog is suffering from heart disease. Other symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties/gasping for air
  • Fainting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Swollen belly

Dogs displaying any of these symptoms may be in heart failure. Symptoms can gradually develop over a period of weeks or months or can occur acutely. These symptoms and the murmur should be investigated as soon as possible. Learn more about the impact to life expectancy with our article: What is My Dog’s Life Expectancy With a Heart Murmur?

Dog heart murmur diagnosis


A veterinarian will perform an initial examination by listening to the heartbeat with a stethoscope. This will allow them to detect abnormal rhythms of the heart (cardiac arrhythmia or dysrhythmia) and lung sounds.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Blood and urine test

This test is performed to detect abnormalities of liver and kidney functions: failure of these organs can lead to heart disease.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) or Elektrokardiogramm (EKG) in Germany

This is an assessment based on the records of heart electrical activity over time. It is used when murmurs are suspected to determine the accurate heart rate, extended problems or damage and diagnose any other type of diseases that can cause abnormal rhythms.

Cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram)

This is the standard ultrasound techniques that can slices the image of the heart into 2D or 3D real-time imaging. This procedure allows vet to determine valves problems, functions, contractions, pumping efficiency, chamber’s size and thickness of your dog heart walls.

Chest X-rays

Veterinarian can examine the lungs and diagnose abnormalities of heart problems when viewing radiographic images. Many types of heart diseases have the potential to enlarge the size particularly the left side of the heart.

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Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.


  • Dr. Winnie, Veterinarian

    Dr. Winnie earned a Master in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria's Veterinary School. She is a full-time Veterinarian specializing in internal medicine for companion animals.

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