Heart Murmur or Thrill and/or Heart Arrhythmias in Dogs

QUESTION: The Vet who neutered my 9 month old pup (a month ago) said he has "Heart Arrhythmia" and strongly advised an EKG elsewhere. Instead I am a firm believer in Alternative Medicine and would like to know what I might do for him (such as magnesium as we humans find help with)? He developed extreme thirst and constant urination habits for about a week shortly after the surgery but now seems to be back to normal. Although my Vet said "No", I was concerned about possibility of Diabetes or Kidney Failure for a while there but don't know now? Please explain?

ANSWER: Just so I don't confuse you, I will explain the difference between a Heart Murmur or Thrill and Heart Arrhythmias.

A Heart "Murmur" is caused by a turbulence in the flow of blood through the heart. Serious ones are caused by Heart Valve Disease or Birth Defects. Anemia can also cause a Heart Murmur.

Not all Murmurs are serious. Some are called "Functional", that is, there is no disease, just a larger degree of turbulence. Heart Murmurs are scored on a scale from 1 to 6. With a 1 usually disappearing by 6 months old and/or not causing any more problems than a child born with one who goes on to lead a normal, productive life.

On the high end of the scale with a 6, pups rarely survive past birth or die shortly afterwards. A pup with a 4 or 5 is unthrifty, does not gain weight and appears weak and unable to play for any length of time without collapsing in distress. They do not life a full life expectancy. A 3 will not disappear as the animal matures and the dog may not live a full life expectancy. A 2 and the pup/dog should be allowed to play and exercise as it wants to, but must not be pushed past the hearts ability to function by excessive exercise/games, etc.

A "Thrill" is a heart Murmur caused by turbulence of such a degree that you can actually feel a buzzing or vibration over the heart. It suggests an obstruction to the flow of blood. Examples are a narrowed valve or a hole in the heart. A Thrill indicates a serious heart condition. Scored as a 4 or 5 or 6 and easily picked up by a Vet, usually from birth.

The force and rate of the heartbeat is influenced by outside nervous and also hormonal factors. Thus the rate speeds up when the dog exercises, becomes stressed or excited, runs a fever, is overheated, is in shock. Or in any circumstance in which more blood flow to the tissues is needed.

Heart "Rhythms" follow a fixed pattern that can be seen on a "Electrocardiogram". Whether the heart bests fast or slow, the sequence causes a Synchronized beat, allowing both Ventricles to empty at the same time. Heart Disease can upset this normal pattern, causing "Arrhythmias".

Only a Veterinarian can determine whether medication (usually for life) or in extreme cases, perhaps surgery is warranted for Heart Arrhythmias.

Kidney Failure (Uremic Poisoning) may be "Sudden and Acute" or "Chronic and Progressive". The first indication of Kidney failure is the dog may drink more water and void a lot more than usual.

Some causes can be: drop in blood pressure, dehydration, blood loss, shock, congestive heart failure and injury to the arteries of the kidneys all can cause Acute renal insufficiency. Since this can happen even though the Kidneys are normal, this type of Kidney Failure is called "Prerenal Azotemia". It will improve if the underlying cause is omitted or treated promptly.

Many people believe in Alternative Medicine. I am sorry but I am not one of them. I believe our animals should be seen, diagnosed and treated with Veterinary prescribed medications that are tested and proven. I do not believe or agree with the HYPE that is now available to us with "Herbs, Remedies, anything unless Veterinarian Approved".

Since he has recovered from the excessive thirst and thus excessive voiding, I would think what ever caused it has corrected itself?

If you can afford an EKG, it is a good idea to determine how severe it is. If not, then speak again with your Vet about heart medication to prolong his life IF the Vet thinks he needs it.

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