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Grade 4 heart murmur.

Species: Dog
Breed: Cocker Spaniel mix
Age: 8-11 years
Today I had went to a new vet with my 8 year old Cocker Spaniel, and while the vet was examining him she told me that my dog has a grade 4 Heart Murmur.

For the past 8 years I've been going to a different vet for my dog's yearly check-up and they've never told me that my dog has anything wrong with his heart. Just wondering how worried should I be, because I'm getting a lot of anxiety over the severity of this heart defect. He does cough sometimes, but in the past I suspected it was because he was just eating his food too fast because he tends to overeat. Also when I walk him, he tends to pull a bit, and he does cough then as well.

I don't have a lot of money, and the options to follow up this diagnose are very expensive to me. Also just wondering how helpful would an x-ray be in helping my dog in the long run, if I do choose to get that procedure done? Thanks again, I would greatly appreciate any response because I don't even think I'll be able to sleep tonight because I'm just so worried for Cinnamon.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Sorry to hear that your dog has been diagnosed with a heart murmur. There are many heart murmurs that I don't worry at all about. For example, if I see a puppy with a grade 1 or 2 heart murmur it is almost always nothing to worry about.

We tend to grade heart murmurs on a scale of 1-4, so this means that a grade 4 murmur is the most serious grade.

A grade 4 heart murmur is almost always something to be concerned about. The problem is that getting an accurate diagnosis of the actual cause of the murmur can be difficult. An xray can tell you whether there is heart enlargement and should be able to give you an idea as to whether there are serious issues like fluid around the heart or significant heart enlargement. It can help your vet to know what types of medications would be best to use to treat your dog.

In order to have a better idea as to what is going on, a heart ultrasound can often tell us more. However, an ultrasound is much more expensive than an xray and usually requires a visit to a specialist.

We don't really treat a heart murmur. But we do treat a dog for heart problems when there are significant clinical signs. The most common of these is coughing. If there is just the occasional cough then your vet likely would not start him on medication just yet but would have you monitor his symptoms.

One other thought that I have is to ask your vet whether heartworm is a possibility. If you live in an area that has a lot of heartworm then it is a good idea to have him tested. Treating for heartworm is a lot easier the sooner you get a diagnosis.

Hope things work out ok!

Dr. Marie.

---This question was asked in our Ask A Vet For Free section.---



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.