Q:When I took my 13-month-old golden retriever to the vet to get neutered, a heart murmur was discovered that had gone previously undetected, and the vet was concerned about the anesthesia.

      X-rays showed a slightly enlarged heart and therefore we didn’t go through with the procedure. What type of care might my dog need, and should I proceed with the neutering?

      A: Murmurs in young animals are often congenital, but the fact that this murmur was not heard previously may indicate that this is a developing condition. While somewhat subjective, an enlargement of the heart would warrant an investigation of the murmur.

      In our hospital, we often use a mobile veterinary radiologist/ultrasound specialist to evaluate heart conditions. Using Doppler ultrasound can help to determine the source of the murmur and pressure gradients across the murmur as well as heart muscle thickness and contractility.

      This information can help us determine the significance (or non-significance) of the murmur, treatment if any that may be indicated, and the possible long-term ramifications of the murmur, and whether a veterinary cardiologist should be consulted.

      The procedure typically costs about the same price you would pay to neuter your pet. This information is essential in determining the safety of anesthesia in your dog and his long-term prognosis. I would highly recommend this procedure be done before any elective anesthesia and surgical procedure.

      Bud Arnott, D.V.M., Oak Tree Animal Hospital, Danville.

      Does you pet have a health or behavioral problem? E-mail Ask the Vet at home@sfchronicle.com.