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Thread: 10 year old x-bred with heart murmur

  1. #1
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    Default 10 year old x-bred with heart murmur

    Hi folks :-)

    I'm wondering if anyone has or has had a dog with a heart murmur. Our 10 year old cross bred (staffy, kelpie, cattle dog... who knows - she's a lovely bitsa though) has developed a heart murmur. Here's the story....

    In December 2014, 3 months after her life long friend passed away, we were thinking about getting another dog, so we took her to the vet for a check up, so that we could be sure she was in good enough health to deal with a boisterous puppy. She was fine, but needed a tiny lump on her lower eyelid and another on her gum removed, which we booked in for the following month. A couple of weeks later we got a puppy, and the two get along quite well, although the youngster is now bigger than her and it's quite obvious he makes her cranky from time to time.

    Fast forward 6 weeks, to the day of her surgery. I turn up at the vet, she checks her over pre-surgery, has a really good listen to her heart. She gets another vet in and they listen very carefully to her heart and decide they can't do the surgery due to a slight heart murmur and 'click'. Instead, they do an ECG which confirms what they think and refer me to a cardiologist.

    6 weeks later I managed to get in to see the cardiologist, who listens, says there is a definite murmur but isn't sure what the clicking noise is, and what exactly is going on. Decides to book her in for an Echocardiogram a couple of weeks later, to see what's going on. The result of the ECG is that it's mitral valve insufficiency (very low grade 1 murmur) very common in smaller dogs and very common in older dogs. He was confident that she'd live a long and satisfying life and that it wasn't anything to worry about until it was at least a grade 3 murmur.

    Fast forward a month or so and I'm at a new vet having the puppy desexed. Because it was less than half the price of what my regular vet quoted ($200 versus $430), I decided to ask them about the cost to do the old girl's surgery with them instead. So I brought her in later that day, when I was picking up the pup, and he had a look at what needed to be done. He asked me if I knew that she had a heart murmur, and I told him that yes I did and we had been to a cardiologist, that it was a low grade 1 murmur. His response was that it was now well and truly a grade 2 now.

    So my question is this... has anyone had an older dog with a heart murmur, and what did the progress look like, how long did they live for etc? The cardiologist was quite adamant that heart disease isn't painful, but I can't help but feel a bit divided, as I can't help but imagine it would be very uncomfortable. Apparently they develop a cough around grade 3 - 4 and that's when exercise needs to start being limited. Currently she's walking 45 minutes or so most days and has no trouble doing so. She's healthy otherwise, i.e. no arthritis or other issues.

    Would love to hear what others have experienced... Thanks in advance :-)

    Regards,
    Gen Y

  2. #2
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    Aug 2009
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    Hi Gen Y

    All I know is sometimes puppies have heart murmurs and grow out of it, and sometimes they get worse.

    Not sure about old dogs and heart murmur but it makes sense.

    I have one friend whose dog got a sort of heart failure where her entire chest cavity would fill up with fluid and have to be drained... I never met that dog but it was a pretty horrible end like being slowly suffocated. Ok if you don't move much so you don't need to breathe much or pump oxygen but if you wanted to run and play - you couldn't. You'd faint from lack of oxygen...

    I think the heart murmur essentially means that the heart pump is leaky and not all the blood that needs to be re-oxygenated gets pumped to the oxygenating side of the heart, and that slowly gets worse. Some careful exercise would probably be good but strenuous exercise (interacting with a persistent puppy) would make it worse. That's my guess. But maybe you could email your vet and ask.

  3. #3
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    Mitral valve disease is early onset heart failure. From what I understand, a grade 1 - 3 murmur is mostly asymptomatic and is only discovered when a vet listens to their heart.

    As much as I'm letting her enjoy life and taking her for walks, generally indulging her and generally treating her kindly, I feel anxious about having to let her go sooner than I am ready for. I know it shouldn't all be about me, but our old dog died of cancer in September last year. Other than a big, bony mass on his hip, the only other symptom he displayed was a slight limp every so often. Every time he would limp we would think his time was nearly up, then he would get better... until one day he woke us in the night, whimpering and obviously in a lot of pain and we had him PTS that day (the vet said this was the point at which the tumour hit the spinal cord). He lived 16 months from diagnosis to the day we had him PTS. I found it really, really hard and was absolutely devastated when he passed - it was a really hard time for our family and, even though he went peacefully and it was comforting to watch him just sleep peacefully, it really was so, so hard. Having said that, I am not one to want my dog to suffer just so that I don't have to go through the trauma of having it PTS.

    The cardiologist said that he would be able to give me a fairly accurate idea of how long the old girl would live, once he did the echocardiogram, and afterwards told us she would live for many years. But with it going from barely audible, to a grade 2 murmur in the space of 4 months has me feeling really anxious about it.

    That's the worst part about having dogs, isn't it? They just don't live long enough...

  4. #4
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    Haven't had this problem and I do feel for you...when they get old they get all sorts of health issues. My GSD Rex is 12.5 yrs old and his back legs are very wobbly and his eye sight is failing...don't know how much time he has left but we keep him comfortable and he's inside most of the time now.

    Rex doesn't go for walks now because of his health...I was surprised that you take your girl for a 45 min walk with a heart condition but that's just me as I'd keep her quite and comfortable as possible as vets only guess as to how much time our old dogs have left.
    Chloe & Zorro
    Rottweilers and German Shepherds are Family

  5. #5
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    Hi Gen Y

    In my experience - people usually take their dogs in about 3 months after they should have (in terms of dog quality of life) but at the same time if it was my dog - I'd probably need that three months to come to terms with it.

    Dogs are very very good at enjoying life despite ongoing pain and discomfort. And they are also very good at hiding pain and discomfort - or ignoring it. Example - my dog has yet another cut on her foot pad (probably something sharp at the beach yesterday), and if there is a cat or a crow or a cheeky magpie that she can see from the back yard she runs around like a pork chop and I put her back on lead to stop her. Ie she has pain but really treats it as "irrelevant". Like the dog that will chase a ball until it falls over from exhaustion or overheating. I know a few of those too.

    It might be worth going back to the cardiologist vet, but you may also want to get some information about what would aggravate the heart murmur in an old dog - like getting a puppy and allowing it to harasss or play with your older dog? Ie what should be your exercise plan with your older dog to maximise quality of life for as long as possible.

    With a herding dog x (aka clever dog that needs a lot of mental stimulation as well as exercise) - you might consider spending more time on trick training that has low physical effort required and less on going for long walks or vigorous play with other dogs and puppies.

    Get a plan in consultation with the specialist.

    And the specialist might have a different opinion on what a grade 1 and a grade 2 etc is... ie someone with a machine that can see the blood flow - is going to be more accurate than someone just listening ( and might also hear the gurgles of brekky mixed in). Or your dog may have gotten worse faster than the specialist thought - and it would be a really good idea to find out why or what you can do to slow it down.

    This page seems quite helpful
    Information about Heart Murmurs and Disease | Elgin Veterinary Hospital

    The most important thing you can do as an owner when your pet has a heart murmur or heart disease is to monitor changes in the resting breathing rate. Each day, while your pet is at rest (best when asleep) count the number of breaths taken over a minute and record this number so that if there is a change, you can let (your vet) know
    and
    Some guidelines for the general care of dogs that heart valve disease include:
    • Keeping our pets moving, but avoiding or reducing intense physical exercise, because the heart is under the greatest strain when it is forced to beat quickly
    • Preferring lower-intensity, on-leash walks for physical activity, as long as the dog does not show signs of exhaustion or difficulty keeping up that might indicate too much activity
    • Avoiding treats or foods that are rich in salt, which causes fluid retention and favors the development of congestive heart failure
    • Beginning a weight-loss diet if your dog is overweight, as at least 60% of pet dogs in North America are. An excess of body weight means unnecessary extra work for the heart. We are happy to get you started on a weight-loss plan individualized for your pet
    So bottom line from that guideline is you're going to have to manage this so her heart rate is not elevated from having to deal with the puppy or you could be (I am not a vet) making it worse faster.
    A couple of weeks later we got a puppy, and the two get along quite well, although the youngster is now bigger than her and it's quite obvious he makes her cranky from time to time.

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