Was your Boston Terrier just diagnosed with a heart murmur? What does that mean? Should you be worried?
In this article, we will be exploring everything you need to know about heart murmurs in Boston Terriers.
A Complete Guide to Heart Murmurs in Boston Terriers
Boston Terriers may be more prone to heart disease and heart murmurs compared to other dog breeds. As a Boston owner, it is important to familiarize yourself with the causes, symptoms, and treatment of heart murmurs so you can better care for your Boston.
Heart murmurs are not always bad. In fact, some dogs may have heart murmurs which never progress to anything worse.
The most important part of managing a Boston with a heart murmur is to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations closely and monitor your Boston for any changes in their health.
What Is A Heart Murmur?
A heart murmur occurs when there is an abnormal sound in the heart. It is often detected by a veterinarian on auscultation of the heart during physical examination.
This abnormal sound may mean there is abnormal blood flow in the heart due to underlying structural heart disease. On the other hand, a heart murmur may be “innocent” meaning there is no underlying heart disease causing the murmur.
Learn what causes this abnormal sound by reading further.
Are Boston Terriers Prone To Heart Murmurs?
Boston Terriers, like many small breed dogs, are prone to heart murmurs and heart disease. Heart murmurs in Boston Terriers are usually secondary to mitral valve disease which is a type of heart disease.
Unfortunately, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Boston Terriers. Around 15% of all Boston deaths are related to heart disease.
What are the leading causes of death in Boston Terriers? Read this article, 3 Leading Causes Of Death In Boston Terriers.
What Dog Breeds Are Prone To Heart Murmurs?
Certain dog breeds are more prone to heart murmurs than others.
According to a veterinary cardiologist from Cornell University, these are the dog breeds that may be more prone to heart murmurs:
What Causes A Heart Murmur In Boston Terriers?
There are a variety of reasons a Boston may develop a heart murmur. This can range from severe heart disease to an innocent murmur that is not dangerous.
The most common reason Boston Terriers develop heart murmurs is an issue with the mitral valve. The valve begins to degenerate over time leading to a heart murmur. This is called mitral valve disease.
Here are a few other reasons that a Boston Terrier may have a heart murmur:
- Anemia Or Low Red Blood Cell Count
- Congenital Abnormalities
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Heartworm Disease
- Heart Failure
- Endocarditis Or Bacterial Infection Of The Valves Of The Heart
- Physiologic Murmur Or Innocent Murmur
Will My Boston Show Signs Of Having A Heart Murmur? How Can I Tell?
Sometimes a Boston with a heart murmur will show symptoms. Other times, you may not notice any symptoms at all.
To truly know if your dog has a heart murmur, I recommend regular physical examinations with a veterinarian every 6 to 12 months. A veterinarian can easily pick up a heart murmur by listening to the heart with a stethoscope.
A heart murmur by itself, most of the time, will not cause any symptoms. If the heart murmur is occurring secondary to heart disease or another illness, you may notice symptoms.
If your Boston has heart disease, you may notice respiratory symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing.
Here are the most common symptoms of heart disease in dogs:
- Breathing Difficulties
- Fast Breathing
- Tiring Quickly During Exercise
- Raspy Breathing
- Losing Weight
Will A Heart Murmur Cause My Dog To Cough?
A heart murmur is the abnormal sound of blood flow in the heart and can be caused by underlying heart disease. Heart disease in dogs can cause coughing.
Anytime you notice that your dog is coughing, I recommend having them seen by a veterinarian to check for a heart murmur.
Is A Heart Murmur Painful For My Boston Terrier?
Most likely, your Boston Terrier is not in pain from the heart murmur because heart murmurs are not generally painful on their own.
While heart disease that sometimes causes a heart murmur can cause your dog to feel crummy, it doesn’t usually seem to be painful.
How Do You Check For A Heart Murmur In Boston Terriers?
Heart murmurs are best detected by a veterinarian during physical examination. Heart murmurs are heard when a veterinarian auscultates your Boston with their stethoscope.
If your veterinarian hears a heart murmur and your Boston is having no other symptoms, they may recommend rechecking the heart murmur every 3 to 6 months. They may also recommend a heartworm test, electrocardiogram, and chest x-ray to look for any signs of underlying heart disease.
Your veterinarian may also recommend an echocardiogram which is an ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiogram is more sensitive at detecting heart disease in dogs than an x-ray so your veterinarian may recommend this test.
How Is A Heart Murmur Treated In Boston Terriers?
The treatment for heart murmurs in Bostons depends on the underlying cause of the heart murmur. Some heart murmurs don’t need to be treated at all and just need regular follow-up and home monitoring.
If your veterinarian suspects that the heart murmur is caused by heart failure, they may recommend medications such as
- Lasix: moves fluid off the lungs
- Vetmedin: improves heart function
- ACE inhibitors: reduces high blood pressure
If the heart murmur is caused by heartworm disease, your Boston will need injectable heartworm treatment.
Some congenital forms of heart murmurs need to be treated with surgery for the best prognosis.
Do Boston Terriers With Heart Murmurs Need A Special Diet?
Some Bostons with heart murmurs need a special diet. Your veterinarian may recommend a special prescription diet that is low in sodium and high in beneficial nutrients that support the heart.
Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d is the most common diet that a veterinarian may prescribe for a dog with heart disease. You do need a prescription to purchase Hills Prescription Diet dog food.
Can Boston Terriers With Heart Murmurs Exercise Or Go For Walks?
I would recommend speaking with your veterinarian specifically about exercise restrictions for your Boston as every pet’s situation is unique.
For example, Boston Terriers with a heart murmur from heartworm disease must be strictly crate rested for several months after heartworm treatment; whereas, a puppy with an innocent murmur may not need any exercise restriction.
That being said, generally, dogs with heart murmurs without severe underlying heart disease can exercise and go for walks.
You will want to monitor your dog closely during exercise for any difficulty:
- Or Lethargy
Pay close attention to your Boston, and if it seems like your dog is starting to feel bad during exercise, I would recommend stopping immediately.
Want to speak with a veterinarian now? Check out Boston Terrier Society’s speak with a vet page right now, SPEAK WITH A VETERINARIAN.
How Much Does It Cost To Treat My Boston Terrier’s Heart Murmur?
It is difficult to estimate the cost of treating a heart murmur because there are so many different reasons for a heart murmur. Only your veterinarian will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the cost of treating a dog’s heart murmur.
The cost of treating a heart murmur depends on the underlying cause of the heart murmur.
For starters, your veterinarian may recommend testing to determine the underlying cause of the heart murmur. This testing can vary widely in cost depending on which tests they want to run from an average range of $200 to $1000.
Once they have determined the cause of the heart murmur, your Boston may need regular monitoring for the heart murmur which may cost between $100 to $300 per year or more for more substantial treatment.
For example, heartworm treatment can range from $1000 to $1500 and heart surgery can range from $2000-5000.
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Can My Boston Terrier Live With A Heart Murmur?
Many dogs with heart murmurs will never go into heart failure. Many Bostons with heart murmurs can live a long normal life even with a heart murmur.
Some Bostons with heart murmurs may die soon after diagnosis because they have severe underlying heart disease.
Because every case is unique, It is important to follow your veterinarian’s advice to reduce the risk of death from the heart murmur.
Will A Heart Murmur Kill My Boston Terrier?
Not all heart murmurs are bad or will cause death in Boston Terriers. That being said, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Boston Terriers.
There is a risk if your Boston has severe underlying heart disease that is causing a heart murmur that your Boston Terrier could die.
What are the leading causes of death in Boston Terriers? Read this article, 3 Leading Causes Of Death In Boston Terriers.
Should I Be Concerned About My Boston Terrier’s Heart Murmur?
The level of concern you should have about your Boston Terrier’s heart murmur really depends on the underlying cause of the murmur.
If your veterinarian has diagnosed severe heart disease as the cause of the murmur, this is definitely a cause for concern.
If your Boston Terrier has a mild heart murmur with no underlying sign of disease, you may not have to worry as much, but it is still important to always be mindful about how your Boston is feeling.
How Do I Care For My Boston With A Heart Murmur?
If your Boston has a heart murmur, there are a few things that you can do at home to make sure you are best caring for your pup.
Here are a few three tips for caring for a Boston with a heart murmur.
1. Closely Monitor For Signs Of Heart Disease
When your Boston has a heart murmur, it is important to monitor for the signs of heart disease. Early detection of these symptoms could help your Boston get more prompt care which may improve the prognosis of heart disease.
If you notice any new symptom or any of the following symptoms in a Boston Terrier that has a heart murmur, you should call your veterinarian right away:
- Difficulty Breathing Or Rapid Breathing
- Decreased Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Fainting Or Disorientation
2. Monitor Resting Respiratory Rate
If your Boston has a heart murmur, I recommend closely monitoring for signs of heart failure. Once per month, I recommend checking your dog’s resting respiratory rate.
While your Boston is asleep, count how many times they breathe in and out over 60 seconds. One breath is considered the full cycle of the rising and falling of the chest. Count the number of breaths in 60 seconds.
If your Boston’s respiratory rate is under 25 to 30 breaths per minute, this is a good sign that your dog is probably not in heart failure.
If the respiratory rate is 30 or more breaths per minute, that is a sign that your dog may be going into heart failure. You should contact your veterinarian right away if the resting respiratory rate is over 30 breaths per minute.
Do this once per month to check for trends. You will begin to learn what is normal for your Boston which will help you detect when something is off.
|Breaths In And Out||Good Or Bad|
|25 – 30 Breath Cycles||GOOD|
|30 + Breath Cycles||BAD – Speak With Veterinarian|
3. Regular Veterinary Check-ups
Regular veterinary check-ups are key to caring for a Boston with a heart murmur. If a dog has a heart murmur, I recommend veterinary check-ups at least every 6 months.
I recommend check-ups more frequently if your dog is showing any of the symptoms described above such as coughing or difficulty breathing.
A heart murmur can be a scary diagnosis for a Boston Terrier considering heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Bostons. That being said, not all heart murmurs are dangerous.
It is best to follow your veterinarian’s advice on management and treatment of the heart murmur to ensure your Boston lives as long as possible.
- Burke, A. (2017). Heart Murmur in Dogs. AKC.
- Eric. M. Everything You Need to Know About Heart Disease in Dogs. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.
- Fleming, J.M., Creevy, K.E., & Promislow, D.E. (2011). Mortality in North American dogs from 1984 to 2004: An investigation into age-, size-, and breed-related causes of death. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 25(2), 187–198.
- Rishniw, M. (2011). Canine Heart Murmur. Clinician’s Brief.