Listening to your pet’s heart and lungs is a vital part of the physical exam. When we listen to your pet’s chest, we are listening to the type of sounds the heartbeat produces as well as the rhythm of the heart beating.
While some pets with heart disease have symptoms, including cough, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance or fainting, other pets may not have symptoms but may have a heart murmur or irregular heart rhythm detected by your veterinarian. When we detect a heart murmur, we are hearing turbulent blood flowing through the heart which typically makes a whooshing sound. Normal blood flow through the heart moves smoothly in one direction. A heart murmur is the abnormal sound heard through a stethoscope because blood is swirling or flowing in different directions.
There are many causes for heart murmurs and the best tool to determine the cause for a heart murmur and whether heart disease is present or not is to perform an ultrasound exam of the heart called an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is a non-invasive heart study that looks at the heart valves, measures heart muscle thickness, records the strength of the heart as it pumps, and follows the path that blood flows through the heart.
In addition, echocardiograms are sometimes performed as routine screenings for breeds at risk for heart disease or for pre-breeding purposes. If you are concerned that your pet may have heart disease, please discuss this with our veterinarians to determine if your pet should have an echocardiogram.
Although some heart diseases can be treated with surgery, most patients with heart disease are treated with medications that help the heart work more effectively as a pump and stabilize the heart rhythm. Supplements or changes in diet may be recommended. However, without an echocardiogram, the best recommendations for specific heart diseases cannot be determined. At Roanoke Animal Hospital, we have the capability to perform an echocardiogram to help screen breeds at risk for heart disease and identify the cause for heart murmurs and heart disease. Contact us today to see if your pet could benefit from an echocardiogram.