How long can my dog live with a heart murmur? A Comprehensive Guide

How serious is a heart murmur in older dogs?

In general, murmurs can be difficult to predict because there are so many varieties and degrees of severity. As such, life expectancies differ based on a few factors, including the type of murmur and even the breed of dog. Some pups can have murmurs for years without ever developing heart disease. Others, though, may progress to congestive heart failure rapidly. Certain breeds are more likely to develop heart disease, like Chihuahuas, Boxers, Dobermans, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels. But even with congestive heart failure, pups can survive for years with medication and attentive care.

While they may sound scary, heart murmurs are not always dangerous. If your senior pup has a low-grade murmur and no accompanying symptoms, there is little cause to worry. Your vet will likely recommend monitoring your dog’s condition to make sure it doesn’t decline. Keep in mind also that heart murmurs typically occur in older dogs because of an underlying health condition. Many of these causes are treatable and may even resolve on their own. However, in more severe cases, and especially with older dogs, the outlook may be more guarded. Your veterinarian is the best person to talk to about your dog’s prognosis.

How Will a Heart Murmur Affect My Dog’s Quality of Life?

How long can my dog live with a heart murmur?

Dogs with heart murmurs can live a long, very normal life in the early stages of heart disease. Dogs with early stages of mitral valve disease may have no apparent clinical signs. As dogs progress to advanced stages of the disease, their cardiac function begins to decline. Clinical signs of this include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • coughing
  • exercise intolerance
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • collapse
  • In the end stages of the disease, dogs may develop abdominal distension and fluid build-up in their bellies. Dogs with later stages of disease should be exercise restricted, and owners should be diligent to prevent stressful situations.

    My dog is acting normally. Does that mean the heart murmur is harmless?

    Again, not necessarily. Dogs may be asymptomatic for their heart murmur but have significant heart disease already present that warrants treatment. Since acquired heart disease usually presents in older patients, owners often think they are slowing down due to age when heart disease is truly contributing to their change in energy.

    In other cases, asymptomatic dogs with heart murmurs may not require heart medications, but they may have the early stages of heart disease present that warrant other precautions. For instance, general anesthesia for a surgery or dental procedure is only recommended if a dog diagnosed with a heart murmur has been evaluated by a veterinary cardiologist and deemed to be a safe anesthetic candidate with appropriate protocol precautions in place.

    Dog Heart Murmur! 3 Vet Tips

    Not so many years ago, a person with a happy, healthy dog with a loud heart murmur would be advised by their veterinarian to wait and start treatment only once signs of heart failure developed.

    This wait-and-see approach to dogs with heart murmurs was accepted wisdom until a few years ago.

    Back then, we all believed starting drugs too early, before the dog developed a cough or struggled to exercise, would reduce the medication’s effectiveness when the dog really needed it.