My dog has a heart murmur – is there anything I can do?

(Q) My Whippet, who's seven, has a grade three heart murmur. Is there anything I can do?

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: We grade heart murmurs (abnormal sounds in the heart) according to their loudness compared to the normal heart sounds, so that a grade 6/6 murmur is one that is as loud as the normal heart sounds, while a grade three murmur is rather quieter. However, there is little correlation between volume of murmur and how problematic it is, so a dog like your Whippet could have a grade three murmur but be coping well, or could have concurrent congestive heart failure.

A more exact assessment of the heart involves checking the dog clinically and looking at the heart rate, circulation, and whether the dog has a cough and signs of fluid retention.

More objectively, measurements can be taken of the heart wall muscles during the different phases of the heartbeat using ultrasound scanning.

Once you know whether your Whippet has a problem with his heart, your vet will be able to advise you about whether treatment might help your dog to feel better.