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Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Mitral valve disease in dogs is a serious condition that can lead to blood leaking during heart muscle contractions. This can cause further issues like heart murmurs and more serious consequences to your dog's health. Today, our Corpus Christi veterinary specialists discuss mitral valve disease including signs and treatments.

This is a common disease that affects dogs over the age of eight. Chihuahuas, Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, Whippets, and Cocker Spaniels, as well as some larger breeds and mixed breeds of dogs, are more prone to this condition.

What Causes Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs?

The heart contains four valves, including the mitral valve, which connects the left ventricle to the left atrium. When the heart contracts in healthy dogs, this valve closes, preventing blood from 'backing up' or regurgitating back into the atrium.

A leaky mitral valve can cause a cascade of other issues, including an enlarged atrium, fluid buildup in the lungs, and damage to the structures of the heart. 

Symptoms Of Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs

Early on, many dogs will show almost no signs or subtle symptoms, which their loving owners may misinterpret as normal aging slowing. However, some common symptoms of mitral valve disease in dogs include:

  • Intolerance for exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Collapse
  • Weakness

Since the symptoms can be vague in nature, it is important to contact your primary veterinarian to have your dog seen for a physical examination.

Diagnosing Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs

Only your veterinarian will be able to correctly diagnose your dog. When you bring your dog in, the vet will first perform a thorough physical examination on your pet. This allows your veterinarian to detect the presence of a heart murmur before other, more serious symptoms manifest. Your veterinarian may also suggest additional diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Radiography. X-rays can give us more information about your dog's internal condition, including the presence of any fluid in the lungs
  • Echocardiography. This diagnostic tool is a way to better understand the structure and function of the valves and heart
  • NT-proBNP. This blood test can show indications of advanced heart failure, especially if there is a large amount of 'regurgitated' blood

Your dog may also need further testing to check the functioning of their other internal systems, in order to clear them for medications needed to treat their condition.

Treating Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs

There are a large number of drugs that can be used in improving outcomes of myxomatous mitral valve disease in dogs, meaning that it's critical for the type and dosage of medications must be carefully calculated for each unique case.

Because this disease is progressive, different medications are used at different stages of your dog's illness. Some of the most commonly used medications for treating this disease in dogs include:

  • Diuretics (e.g. furosemide)
  • Vasodilators (e.g. enalapril, benazapril, pimobendan)
  • Positive inotropes (e.g. pimobendan, digoxin)

Depending on your dog's case, they may be prescribed other drugs to deal with health issues like high pressure in the vessels of the lungs

Sadly, there is no known cure for this disease at this time, and the medications are palliative to ensure your dog's comfort and extend their life as much as possible. 

Dogs With Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs Life Expectancy

Your dog's prognosis will depend on how far its disease has advanced by the time it is diagnosed. If caught early, many dogs can live for many more years, while others with symptoms could only survive a few months. A diagnosis by a veterinarian can determine the presence of mitral valve disease in your dog as well as the stage, so that appropriate treatment can begin. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has been diagnosed with degenerative mitral valve disease or another progressive heart condition, contact our Everhart Animal Hospital team and we will do everything we can to help you!

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