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By Gina Pasieka, Few things are as exciting as bringing a new puppy home. That joy can DVM, Diplomate, quickly turn to anxiety if a veterinarian notices a heart murmur during a ACVIM (Cardiology) puppy’s routine health care visit.

What is a heart murmur? A heart murmur is an abnormal heart sound secondary to turbulent blood flow within the heart. The murmur is graded on a scale of one to six, based on how loud the murmur sounds. Fortunately, most murmurs in young puppies are termed innocent and should be resolved by sixteen weeks of age. For puppies with murmurs above a grade three, or those that do not have the issue resolved by sixteen weeks of age, a visit to a cardiologist will likely be recommended. An echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, should be able to determine if congenital heart disease is present and is the best course of treatment.


Patent Ductus Arteriosus One of the most common congenital defects in dogs is a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). Although any breed may be affected, Miniature Poodles, Shelties, and German Shepherds are more predisposed. The ductus arteriosus is a normal fetal vessel that allows the majority of oxygenated blood from the placenta to bypass the lungs while in utero. After birth, the ductus should close within a few days. In the case of a PDA diagnosis, the ductus does not close, resulting in unnecessary recirculation of blood flow through the lungs and left side of the heart, causing progressive heart enlargement and often congestive heart failure if left untreated.

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