Heart Murmur - Spay? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 01:30 AM Thread Starter
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Heart Murmur - Spay?

I am currently fostering a 7 year old female intact GSD that was recently diagnosed with a grade 4 heart murmur.

She is not being fostered through an organization. My friend (who works at a shelter) was given ownership of many animals when her friend passed away and I agreed to take on Lola, the GSD, as she was dog aggressive and needed to be moved out of her old home asap. I've been fostering her for just over a month or so and she was thought to be spayed.

I took her into the vet but there were no records of her being spayed. (only had her vet records up to 9 months there). They shaved her belly to check for a spay scar but didn't see anything. I went to get her bloodwork done about a week or so later so she could get spayed and a different vet diagnosed her with a grade 4 heart murmur.

So I am not sure what to do and haven't dealt with heart murmurs before. She gets tired easily and pants hard when stressed and even barely any exercise. I have been looking for the right home for her, but now am faced with not knowing if it's safe to have the surgery done. She also has pannus and will be starting daily eyedrops. With her dog aggression, I have struggled to find her a home but will keep her for however long it may take. We are working with a trainer with her aggression. I'm now obviously worried about getting her spayed but I also worry about her getting pyometra if she were to be kept intact. I've had mostly male dogs so I don't know how high the risk of pyometra is?

My friend was going to talk further with the vet about it so I am waiting to hear what they think. I feel like I've been getting conflicting opinions on what to have done and it's making it hard to figure out :/
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 05:23 AM
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My golden dislocated his hip and had to have surgery. They found a murmur and it scared me. I don't think they should go under if there are any issues with the heart. His murmur did go away(they said it was due to the shock and pain) and he had surgery later that week.

In this case I would not put her under. It's gets tricky if something happens and she has to be spayed. I would not want to be in that position. You can talk to the vet and see what they say.

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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Cascade View Post
I am currently fostering a 7 year old female intact GSD that was recently diagnosed with a grade 4 heart murmur.

She is not being fostered through an organization. My friend (who works at a shelter) was given ownership of many animals when her friend passed away and I agreed to take on Lola, the GSD, as she was dog aggressive and needed to be moved out of her old home asap. I've been fostering her for just over a month or so and she was thought to be spayed.

I took her into the vet but there were no records of her being spayed. (only had her vet records up to 9 months there). They shaved her belly to check for a spay scar but didn't see anything. I went to get her bloodwork done about a week or so later so she could get spayed and a different vet diagnosed her with a grade 4 heart murmur.

So I am not sure what to do and haven't dealt with heart murmurs before. She gets tired easily and pants hard when stressed and even barely any exercise. I have been looking for the right home for her, but now am faced with not knowing if it's safe to have the surgery done. She also has pannus and will be starting daily eyedrops. With her dog aggression, I have struggled to find her a home but will keep her for however long it may take. We are working with a trainer with her aggression. I'm now obviously worried about getting her spayed but I also worry about her getting pyometra if she were to be kept intact. I've had mostly male dogs so I don't know how high the risk of pyometra is?

My friend was going to talk further with the vet about it so I am waiting to hear what they think. I feel like I've been getting conflicting opinions on what to have done and it's making it hard to figure out :/
I have a 6 1/2 yr old male - Woolf - who was diagnosed with a stage 3 heart murmur. The disease (won't even try typing out the name) is one that mostly smaller dogs get and eventually leads to congestive heart failure. Interestingly enough, he is fear aggressive - severe DA and sometime HA.

Woolf just had his teeth cleaned last month, but before the vet would even consider it he had the full preop blood workup and had to have had his yearly xrays to monitor for heart enlargement. Then had a discussion with his cardiologist. That is just to list the steps we took for a teeth cleaning.

If the rescue is funded or has access to funds (the echo alone cost $750 for Woolf); it would be worth it to get a cardiologist involved to get a solid diagnosis of why there is a heart murmur; then you would be better equipped to make a decision for the spay.

Get in contact with gsdsar who works for a cardiologist as well.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 09:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks. The vet did mention I could take her to a cardiologist but I think he said it would be down at the coast so that's a 6-7 hour drive for me. I have been paying for everything myself for Lola so it would probably be pretty costly. He didn't say anything about doing X-rays.

My friend spoke to the vet and they decided that we could book the spay and he would check her heart right before. But I am not sure because that is nothing what he told me when I took her in. He didn't even do her blood work. He isn't the vet I normally use, and everyone else has given me negative feedback on him so I would be more comfortable if it were my own vet giving me this advice. I am going to book another appointment with my own vet and see what he has to say about it.
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 09:50 AM
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One cheap step you can take is to have the vet run a heartworm test right away -- it's pretty unlikely in Canada, but not impossible. I see lots and lots of murmurs in dogs that have heartworm disease, and they correct after treatment. Those dogs all get spayed and neutered, and they come through fine.

In a HW-negative dog, I think I'd want to start with a chest xray, for the reasons Twyla explained.

Your regular vet can do a chest xray to be sure the heart isn't enlarged due to DCM....and, if needed, that image can probably be sent off to a caridiologist for review for another $50-$100. That's the low-cost way of staring this investigation into cause. As Twyla mentioned, the worry here is that enlargement is a sign of DCM, and DCM means congestive heart failure is on the way. DCM dogs have a shortened lifespan, so it's something any prospective adopter would want to know.

I just had major surgery done on one in rescue with a Grade 4 murmur. The surgeon not only wanted bloodwork, but also a chest x-ray prior to surgery. He sent it to a specialist to review to make sure the heart wasn't enlarged. Only after the specialist confirmed it wasn't enlarged did he go forward with the surgery. This was a complex surgery lasting at least an hour, so the dog was going to be under for a while. However, the surgery was done at a specialty clinic with a state-of-the-art surgery suite, very experienced anesthesia staff, a team of boarded vet specialists AND an emergency ICU on-site...so about as safe a surgery experience as one can possibly set up. The dog came through fine.

An uncomplicated spay can be done fast so they're not under for long at all. HOWEVER, I would not take a dog with a serious murmur to a low-cost spay clinic because they tend to not do an IV-cath with fluids during anesthesia. Assuming the heart isn't enlarged and you are cleared to go forward with the surgery, I'd suggest doing this dog's spay at a full-service clinic that uses fluids during anesthesia. That may potentially factor into the discussion you have with your vet (and cost).
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 10:56 AM
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One cheap step you can take is to have the vet run a heartworm test right away -- it's pretty unlikely in Canada, but not impossible. I see lots and lots of murmurs in dogs that have heartworm disease, and they correct after treatment. Those dogs all get spayed and neutered, and they come through fine.

In a HW-negative dog, I think I'd want to start with a chest xray, for the reasons Twyla explained.

Your regular vet can do a chest xray to be sure the heart isn't enlarged due to DCM....and, if needed, that image can probably be sent off to a caridiologist for review for another $50-$100. That's the low-cost way of staring this investigation into cause. As Twyla mentioned, the worry here is that enlargement is a sign of DCM, and DCM means congestive heart failure is on the way. DCM dogs have a shortened lifespan, so it's something any prospective adopter would want to know.

I just had major surgery done on one in rescue with a Grade 4 murmur. The surgeon not only wanted bloodwork, but also a chest x-ray prior to surgery. He sent it to a specialist to review to make sure the heart wasn't enlarged. Only after the specialist confirmed it wasn't enlarged did he go forward with the surgery. This was a complex surgery lasting at least an hour, so the dog was going to be under for a while. However, the surgery was done at a specialty clinic with a state-of-the-art surgery suite, very experienced anesthesia staff, a team of boarded vet specialists AND an emergency ICU on-site...so about as safe a surgery experience as one can possibly set up. The dog came through fine.

An uncomplicated spay can be done fast so they're not under for long at all. HOWEVER, I would not take a dog with a serious murmur to a low-cost spay clinic because they tend to not do an IV-cath with fluids during anesthesia. Assuming the heart isn't enlarged and you are cleared to go forward with the surgery, I'd suggest doing this dog's spay at a full-service clinic that uses fluids during anesthesia. That may potentially factor into the discussion you have with your vet (and cost).
I agree with all of this. I'd also add, that while I don't know the exact percentage of chance with pyometra, I do know that I work in a single doctor practice and we still see 2 cases of pyo every 6 months or so at least. In the event that she did develop it, the surgery would be much more complicated and dangerous for her at that time than it is during a routine spay.

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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 11:14 AM
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Our King Charles was spayed and she had a heart murmur but at the time the murmur was at very low grade level which does not pose much of a greater risk then normal and done by a extremely gifted vet. A grade level 4 is a very high grade level and when our bella was at this grade level she was at the age of 7. The following year was at grade level 5 and in congestive heart failure and lived an additional 1 more year that consisted removing fluid from her abdomen and heavy duty meds.

This question needs to be asked to a cardiologists and an answer to that is when all tests are done. I can imagine any surgery would pose a very serious risk At this grade 4 level the stress of it can speed up the damage. I urge to you see a cardiolgist. A cardiologist has do X-ray, ekg, sonogram and bloodwork to see what condition the heart is in. The care a cardiologists gives her now will give her the greatest chance of living as long as she can with this condition. She will not receive the proper care of a regular vet at this grade level she is in.

Last edited by Jenny720; 04-06-2017 at 11:18 AM.
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 11:34 AM
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So it's not so cut and dry with murmurs. Loudness of murmur does not always indicate severity of disease. It's just a sound. It's subjective(ish).

If you cannot see a cardiologist to determine why the dog has a murmur, then I would recommend at least chest X-rays and an ekg(something's about structure can be determined on a tracing). There are adjustments that should be made to IV fluid rate and medications that should be avoided(ones that can decrease cardiac output.).

GSD and other large beeed dogs will have generally different types of cardiac disease than say a Cavalier. At a grade 4 murmur you need to weigh the risk/benefit of a spay and adoptibility before proceeding.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 11:52 AM
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It is important to take note the dog does get tired easily after very light exercise and pants heavily. She is a beautiful dog and looks like in great shape. The test results will help you in your decision. Wishing you the best!
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Magwart View Post
One cheap step you can take is to have the vet run a heartworm test right away -- it's pretty unlikely in Canada, but not impossible. I see lots and lots of murmurs in dogs that have heartworm disease, and they correct after treatment. Those dogs all get spayed and neutered, and they come through fine.

In a HW-negative dog, I think I'd want to start with a chest xray, for the reasons Twyla explained.

Your regular vet can do a chest xray to be sure the heart isn't enlarged due to DCM....and, if needed, that image can probably be sent off to a caridiologist for review for another $50-$100. That's the low-cost way of staring this investigation into cause. As Twyla mentioned, the worry here is that enlargement is a sign of DCM, and DCM means congestive heart failure is on the way. DCM dogs have a shortened lifespan, so it's something any prospective adopter would want to know.

I just had major surgery done on one in rescue with a Grade 4 murmur. The surgeon not only wanted bloodwork, but also a chest x-ray prior to surgery. He sent it to a specialist to review to make sure the heart wasn't enlarged. Only after the specialist confirmed it wasn't enlarged did he go forward with the surgery. This was a complex surgery lasting at least an hour, so the dog was going to be under for a while. However, the surgery was done at a specialty clinic with a state-of-the-art surgery suite, very experienced anesthesia staff, a team of boarded vet specialists AND an emergency ICU on-site...so about as safe a surgery experience as one can possibly set up. The dog came through fine.

An uncomplicated spay can be done fast so they're not under for long at all. HOWEVER, I would not take a dog with a serious murmur to a low-cost spay clinic because they tend to not do an IV-cath with fluids during anesthesia. Assuming the heart isn't enlarged and you are cleared to go forward with the surgery, I'd suggest doing this dog's spay at a full-service clinic that uses fluids during anesthesia. That may potentially factor into the discussion you have with your vet (and cost).
Thank you, this has given me much to think about and consider. From what I've heard, we don't have heartworm here (apparently the only cases are of dogs that traveled out of BC and got it, but I will ask). The vet never mentioned doing a chest xray but I will definitely ask about that as well. I am going to take her back to my regular vet and get her heart rechecked, and inquire about all of this. If I do decide to go ahead with the spay, she won't be going to a low cost clinic. I'm not going to make a decision until I know more about it. Just hoping it won't cost me an arm and a leg to find out :/

The vet also suggested to wait and see if she comes into heat, as we don't know for certain if she is intact or not. Lol. The owner that passed away told her friend she was spayed. But they couldn't find a spay scar and the other dogs the lady had were said to be fixed but only one was. We only have access to her vet records for when she was a puppy. She also has rear dew claws, which the vet said is a sign she probably isn't spayed.

But yes, thank you to everyone that has responded. It has been a lot more helpful than what I was told from the vet. It would help if I knew she had a home lined up. I don't mind having her intact here for now, and if she has a heart condition that means she might only live another year or so I'll probably just keep her here as palliative care. I would love to find her an experienced home where she has her own person and family but even if she were healthy her history of aggression has made it difficult to rehome her. Hopefully I can get her back to my vet and get more figured out soon.
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