Investigation of murmurs, gallop and split heart sounds

You may be looking at this web-site because your vet has discovered an abnormality with your dogs or cats heart.  For example your vet might have diagnosed an abnormal heart sound, this could be:

  • a murmur which is an extra sound over and above the normal heart sounds (the familiar LUB DUB sounds) 
  • a gallop sound which as the name suggests can sound like a galloping horse
  • split heart sounds, the normal heart sounds are produced when 2 pairs of valves close, sometimes if these valves do not close at the same time we can hear a split heart sound

The best way to accurately determine the cause of these abnormal heart sounds is to perform cardiac echocardiography (ultrasound) to enable me to look at the function of the heart valves, the size and function of the heart chambers and detection of abnormalities of the great vessels (the blood vessels entering and leaving the heart)

Normal blood flow through the heart and large blood vessels is described as laminar, (see diagram below)  If blood flow becomes turbulent then this will create noise. Murmurs in dogs and cats are typically associated with abnormal fast moving turbulent blood flow, this can occur if heart valves are not opening or closing properly causing blood to flow through narrow openings and producing audible turbulence. This abnormal blood flow can be detected and the velocity of the blood flow measured using doppler echocardiography.


Investigation of weakness, syncope, exercise intolerance and coughing

Another common reason for your own vet to refer a case to me is for the investigation of weakness, syncope (fainting), exercise intolerance or coughing. Often these symptoms can be suggestive of heart disease but it is only by examining your dog or cat and performing the necessary diagnostic tests that I am able to give an accurate diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan for your pet.

Investigation of irregular heart rhythms, arrhythmias.

Irregularities of heart rhythm can be broadly divided into bradycardias (heart too slow) and tachycardias (heart rate too fast). If the heart is pumping too slow then the rest of the body does not receive an adequate blood supply, equally if the heart rate rate is too fast it will not have enough time to fill with an adequate volume of blood before the next contraction which will result in smaller volumes of blood being pumped. Arrythmias  are diagnosed using an ECG or Holter Monitor

Heart disease in dogs and cats is generally split into two categories, congenital or acquired:

Congenital heart disease refers to structural deformities that can develop in the developing foetus or be present shortly after birth. These can include defective heart valves, septal defects (hole in the heart) and various other more complicated structural abnormalities.

Acquired heart disease develops in later life, for example development of leaking valves or development of a poorly contracting heart.