Mitral valve disease can have a serious impact on the overall health of your dog as it causes blood to leak as well as a variety of other life-threatening concerns. Today, our Lacey veterinary team discusses what mitral valve disease is as well as its causes and what the prognosis looks like for dogs experiencing this condition.
This is a very common disease that affects dogs after about 8 years old. Small breeds of dog are more prone to this condition, including Chihuahua, Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, Whippets, Cocker Spaniels, as well as some larger breeds and mixed breeds of dogs.
What Causes Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs?
The heart has 4 valves, and the mitral valve, which separates the left ventricle from the left atrium. In healthy dogs, this valve shuts when the heart contracts, 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 exhibit almost no signs, or symptoms so subtle that their loving owners may mistake it for normal slowing down associated with aging. That said, some common signs in dogs with mitral valve disease include:
- Intolerance for exercise intolerance
- Trouble breathing
- Increased respiratory rate
Diagnosing Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs
Only your veterinarian will be able to correctly diagnose your dog. When you take your dog in, the vet will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination of your pet. This gives your veterinarian a chance to detect the presence of a heart murmur long before other, more serious symptoms develop. Your vet is also likely to recommend a number of other diagnostic tests, including:
- 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 to address mitral valve disease in your pooch, meaning that it's critical for the type and dosage of medications must be carefully calculated for each unique case.
As this disease is progressive in nature, there are different medications used at different points during your dog's condition. Some of the most commonly used drugs for treating this disease in canines can 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 in nature to ensure your dog's comfort and extend their life as much as possible.
Prognosis For Dogs With Mitral Valve Disease
Like many conditions and diseases , the prognosis If caught early, many dogs can live for many more years, while others with symptoms could only survive a few months. Having your dog diagnosed by a veterinarian can determine the presence of the disease 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.