Heart Care (Cardiology)

Heart Care (Cardiology)

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an abnormal heart sound, usually heard by listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

What causes a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart. Sometimes a murmur is determined to be 'innocent' or 'physiologic', while other times the murmur is determined to be pathologic or caused by disease. Pathologic heart murmurs can be caused by a structural problem within the heart (i.e., cardiac disease), or can be due to a problem that is 'extracardiac' (i.e., not caused by heart disease).

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a term that refers to the heart's inability to pump adequate blood to the body. There are many causes of CHF in dogs. The two most common causes are mitral valve insufficiency (MVI), or a leaky mitral valve, the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). For further information, please see our handouts "Heart Disease 1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy" and "Heart Disease 2. Mitral Valve Disease"

Clinical signs vary depending on whether the patient has left- or right-sided heart failure. The most common symptoms of congestive heart failure are decreased stamina, coughing or difficulty breathing. 

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a term used to describe diseases of the heart muscle. In cats, three classes of cardiomyopathy have been described: hypertrophic, dilated, and intermediate or restrictive cardiomyopathy. In all classes, the heart disease usually results in clinical signs of heart failure. Cardiomyopathy may be seen as a primary condition or secondary to other diseases.

What are the clinical signs seen with cardiomyopathy?

In the early stages of disease, the cat may not show any signs of disease. This is referred to as compensated heart disease. Often cats will alter their activity levels to those that they can cope with, which make it difficult to diagnose cardiomyopathy until it is quite advanced. In the long term, cats with any type of cardiomyopathy are at an increased risk of developing congestive heart failure, thromboembolic disease, and hypertension.  

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