View Full Version : considering adopting a dog with a heart murmur

23rd January 2013, 02:49 AM
Hi~ I am considering adopting a 6 year old male from a national rescue. The little guy has a grade 3 heart murmur but otherwise is in good health. This will be my first dog EVER ( I was a deprived child right? :)). I am single and feel I am in a financial position to comfortably handle the regular expenses of a pet as well as SOME unexpenced costs. I'm sure I will fall totally in love with this little guy and of course will want to spare no cost for his needs but am nervous about what the potential expenses will realistically add up to be. I also recognize in going the adoption route that the chances of finding a healthy dog are pretty slim. Any advice/thoughts would be much appreciated. I'm meeting him tomorrow and am also hoping I will have a sense if he is the dog for me or not. Have others gotten a "feeling" knowing one way or the other if a dog is for them or not?

23rd January 2013, 10:16 AM
It is possible to get insurance on an older dog, but they wouldn't cover his heart problems, so I'd probaby not recommend it.

For some dogs with MVD the disease progresses slowly, for other rapidly. There's very little to indicate, unless you know his health history. If he was an owner abandon they might know when his murmur was first noticed, and how it is has progressed.

I'm not experienced with MVD, but someone else on the forum will probably drop by with some more info.

23rd January 2013, 03:04 PM
Only time for a quick answer, but I can elaborate later if you'd like.

I've adopted quite a few rescues with heart murmurs, and I've never had a moment's regret. Many were seniors, some were middle-aged. Most of them did quite well and lived into their mid-teens. One senior girl lived only a few months, never had symptoms, and died quite suddenly due to ruptured chordae tendineae.

But......I was an experienced dog owner and was experienced with heart disease, and I already had a good network of specialists (and a good GP vet) who do their best to keep costs reasonable, esp. for rescues.

Where do you live? That might give some clues about potential expense. Do you know anyone with experience with heart disease who could help you with sound advice along the way? You might still want to consider insurance as there are quite a few other things that can happen which can incur more cost than heart disease. (The most money I ever spent on a rescue was to treat glaucoma.)

This experience can be very rewarding; I greatly prefer adopting middle-aged to senior dogs. I've had 12 Cavaliers and 8 other assorted dogs that were all adults when they came to me; some in the 1-3 range, most in the 4-7 range, and several teenagers. I will never, ever have a puppy! (Sing with me to Taylor Swift tune "I will never, ever, ever, ever get a puppy......"

One caveat - From experience, I know not to rely on the health status as reported by any rescue group, and I always have a full evaluation done myself for any dog that I adopt or am considering adopting.


P.S. It is possible to find a healthy rescue. I have a 10 year old Cavalier that came to me at age 4 (rehomed by his owner who had imported him for her breeding program). He is still heart clear and is SM clear on MRI. He has had only minor health problems to date. My other current Cavalier came off the street with no history at all. Her appearance makes me believe she is a pet store/BYB product. She is now roughly 4-5 years old. She is heart clear and symptomless for CM/SM and has had no problems in the three years that I've had her.

23rd January 2013, 03:40 PM
Totally would agree with the above and echo in particular, Pat's post (and also agree, I would not write off considering insurance for any dog as often the big expenses come from accidents or unexpected conditions). :)

I'd want to know if the rescue had a cardiologist verify that murmur or was it a vet or are they going on the owner's information. Probably one of the former two. I'd want my own vet check either way.

A grade 3 murmur would (unfortunately) not be rare in a six year old dog. There are other elements of the murmur that would be more critical for prognosis than the grade alone. I've had a grade 5 rescue cavalier live for three years, til age 10ish. My 9 year old was diagnosed with a grade three by a cardio two years ago but vets suspected that grade a bit longer. He is active and happy and not on any heart meds. I had one who had a murmur rapidly progress from 0 at age 7 to 5 by age 10 and she passed away just shy of her 11th bday.

Murmurs sadly are the norm for this breed -- most will eventually have one -- though some breeders are working to try to reduce incidence and age of onset by cardio testing and following breeding protocols. So you do become familiar with MVD if you own a cavalier. The fact that a cavalier had a murmur would not prevent me getting an older rescue like this but there will likely be costs -- meds if needed, can be around $100+ monthly eventually and cardio visits and tests are also costly. Dogs with significant MVD do take special care eventually and it can be (no pun) heart breaking to go through this illness with them. But again that is the road that all cavalier owners need to be prepared for and accept as most will eventually have some level of MVD.

For a first time dog owner, this could be difficult. Or it could be a rewarding experience. Much depends on what you feel able for, and of course on the progression (or not) of the condition for this little cavalier. There aren't really any certainties with the condition.

23rd January 2013, 07:41 PM
Thanks Pat! I live in Charlotte North Carolina. I probably should have mentioned that. If anyone has any connections or resources in that area please let me know!

23rd January 2013, 07:59 PM
Thanks Pat! I live in Charlotte North Carolina. I probably should have mentioned that. If anyone has any connections or resources in that area please let me know!

In terms of where to live with a cavalier with MVD, Charlotte, NC probably is the best location in the US. I am sure you will hear from at least a couple of board members who live there.

24th January 2013, 01:11 AM
Charlotte is a good place as far as access to good care and reasonable costs for care - this is similar for me in Atlanta, GA. Much less expensive care than the West coast or the Northeast.

I think I've identified your potential boy. Description said he was going to get some dental care. It would be good to have full blood chemistry with CBC and a chest x-ray before the dental. He does need a baseline two-view chest x-ray now no matter where he goes. These tests will give a good deal of information about his overall health status. If I were interested, I'd offer to pay a portion of that to get the maximum picture of his health status if they aren't already planning to do this. I'm not sure what they would normally do, but I suspect they would at least need to do full blood chemistry before anesthesia. These tests would run about $300 in our area. You'd want to repeat the x-rays in 6-12 months to get an idea of rate of progression of the heart disease, sooner if the murmur were to get louder or if you saw any symptoms.

There are some members here who could help you identify a good GP vet since he would be your first dog and you don't currently have a vet. I'd be happy to talk with you on phone or via email privately to help you get up to speed on what would be helpful for you to know.


24th January 2013, 01:42 AM
Thanks Pat! I live in Charlotte North Carolina. I probably should have mentioned that. If anyone has any connections or resources in that area please let me know!

I live in Charlotte. Dr. Peggy Sayer is the Board Certified cardiologist here and she is really good. I'm not sure where you got your rescue from but I know the rescue coordinator for this region for one of the rescue groups. She takes the rescues to see the vet I go to. I can give you the names or any other information.

24th January 2013, 01:43 AM
Just my opinion, I would take him in a minute!!!!!Number 1 placing a bog his age with any medical condition is difficult. Its super smart of you to look into this condition before hand tho (one small step to doggie parenthood) Number 2 As you have come to know heart murmurs in cavaliers are very very common, and treatable but again smart you (again) it does cost more then "normal" dog ownership. (Oh plus you have support/info from us AND the rescue group- trust me people on CT KNOW) Number 3 I figured out which handsome 6 year old grade 3 heart murmur dog I think you are referring to-----he is beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cavalier's in general ( to me and pretty much the rest of us) are not like owning any other breed of dog. Yes, it is very true that the breed is pledged with a number of awful medical conditions that they DO take the "right" person (informed, caring and willing and able to spend whatever money/time required or suggested) . However, as you may discover there is a reason we all own them.

HOWEVER, if you decide this or any dog with a medical condition is not right for you then BRAVO for having the brains to look into the condition beforehand and the heart to say its not for you.

I took me over a year for me to find the right cavalier for me..........it was 1000000% worth the wait.

24th January 2013, 02:34 AM
I see that the rescue coordinator changed so I'm not sure if they go to my vet or not. I see the one you are thinking about and adorable! I have never owned a cavalier with a murmur yet and have no experience with MVD but I know I may at some point.

I went with a friend who has a cavalier with a grade 3 murmur to a different vet and I realized how much I like the vet I go to. There are other board members I think go to same one. Pat gave great advice and hopefully the rescue will work with you. If you have questions you can send me a PM or I can talk to you. I may not be able to help with the heart questions but there are people on this forum that have a lot of knowledge.

I hope to hear what you decided and maybe one say meet your rescue. Either way it's a big decision and I'm glad to see that you are thinking this through.

26th January 2013, 10:12 PM
Thanks everyone for all of your input and helpful advice, I really appreciate it! I've been playing a bit of phone tag with the rescue coordinator here but we last discussed having me go with the foster family when he gets his teeth cleaned to ask questions and get a better sense of his over all health. I think the suggestion of having all the blood work done and offering to chip in on the costs for some extra tests is great.

I also spoke with the NC coordinator with the CKCS and given that I'm a first time dog owner and would like to use my dog as a therapy dog in my work ( I'm a mental health therapist not sure if I mentioned that before) she suggested I contact some breeders to see if they have any older dogs that they were maybe holding on to show and it didn't work out. So far I've talked to a breeder in Beaufort, SC who has a 1 year old girl available and a lady in Winston-Salem who has a 6 month old boy available. I just need to sit with all the information I have and decide what I think is going to be the best fit for me I guess.

26th January 2013, 11:42 PM
I think you are being very wise and that is a good idea about checking with breeders who want to place older cavaliers. That is great you want to do therapy work. I think if you take time, talk to breeders, even another rescue might be a better fit, or if you decide to rescue this cavalier, it sounds like you are thinking things through so I know you will decide what's best.

27th January 2013, 04:59 PM
First - can this thread be moved to the "General" forum? I had a hard time finding it to post a reply and finally located it under "questions about Board features" which is obviously the wrong Forum. I think that others might have input but haven't seen the thread.



27th January 2013, 06:42 PM
Sure, will move it there and leave a forward. :) I had been clicking directly into the thread from the side columns and hand't realised it was in the section for questions about board functions rather than about dogs.