Q: My wife and I purchased an 8-week old Goldie bitch last week (Holly) and today we took her to the vet for a routine check-up. Unfortunately the vet informed us that Holly had a grade 3-4 heart murmur and recommended an ultra-scan at a specialist.
Q: My wife and I purchased an 8-week old Goldie bitch last week (Holly) and today we took her to the vet for a routine check-up. Unfortunately the vet informed us that Holly had a grade 3-4 heart murmur and recommended an ultra-scan at a specialist. Notwithstanding this heart murmur she behaves just like other pups we've had, showing no signs of fatigue or stress of any kind - its hard to believe she had this problem.
Although the breeder has offered to take the dog back, we do not favour this option and would like to keep the dog and give her the best life possible.
We therefore seek following advice, please:
1 Should we be concerned at this grade of murmur in such a young dog?
2 Is this grade of murmur common in pups of this breed and what is the likely long-term outcome/ lifespan of having this condition?
3 Is it true that this grade of murmur could reduce as the pup gets older?
4 If a scan is undertaken will the results provide us with sufficient information to judge the likely lifespan of the dog and provide an in-site as to the likely cost of life time treatment, if indeed there is any?
A: Firstly, to answer your questions in turn:
1. A grade 3-4 murmur in a puppy unfortunately is of concern (see below).
2. The murmur tells us that something abnormal is going on with one of the heart valves, but does not tell us what that abnormality is, so it is impossible to guess a long term outcome. An ultrasound scan of the heart would be able to tell us which condition is causing the murmur, and what the potential outcome is.
There are a couple of congenital conditions we do see in Golden Retrievers, namely dysplasia (malformation) of the mitral valve, and subaortic stenosis. Both of those do cause murmurs in young puppies.
3. The murmur may change as the puppy gets older, but the grade of murmur is not always indicative of level of disease (ie grade 4 murmur can sometimes be associated with less serious disease than a grade 1 murmur). Some puppies have a low grade (1-2) murmur which is benign and disappears as they get older. A grade 3-4 murmur is unlikely to be benign and does warrant investigating sooner rather than later.
4. A scan will be able to diagnose your puppy's heart condition, as well as give us information on how well her heart is functioning. Once we know what the condition is, we can make appropriate treatment decisions. Some conditions need ongoing medication, whereas others may need surgical correction (for example, subaortic stenosis mentioned above).
Knowing the condition and its severity may give us some idea of what to expect in terms of life span, but is by no means an exact guide.
I would encourage you to follow your vet's recommendation for a heart ultrasound. Once
your vet knows which condition is causing the murmur, they can discuss possible treatment and outcomes in much more detail.
I wish little Holly all the best, and hope she continues to delight you for years to come!
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