Category Archives: Health Articles

Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral Valve disease is the most common type of heart disease in small dogs and is especially common in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Toy and Miniature Poodle, Maltese Terrier and Chihuahua.

Normal canine heart valves

The valves in a normal heart close tightly to only allow blood to flow in one direction. Diseased valves will leak, allowing blood to flow backwards or regurgitate, which may be heard as a heart murmur. Leaky valves change the blood flow dynamics and internal blood pressure in the heart, often causing it to enlarge, which is seen on Xray.

mitral valves

Because the leaky heart valve allows blood to flow backwards, the pumping of the heart becomes less efficient and over time will lead to congestive heart failure. This may take a few months, or it may take several years.

Initially the dog attempts to cope by retaining fluid to increase blood volume. This fluid can gather in the lungs, causing decreased oxygen transfer and a cough.

Patients are often prescribed diuretics (eg frusemide) to reabsorb this fluid, and may be prescribed other medications such as Vetmedin or Fortekor to improve quality of life and extend survival times. Some patients require fluid to be drained, or may require oxygen therapy.

Monitoring your pet for a persistent cough or an increased resting respiratory rate at home is the best way to monitor their heart health in between their regular veterinary check ups.

Heart Disease Symptoms in Dogs

dog heart

Heart disease is one of the most common reasons senior dogs present to us for treatment. Symptoms of disease can appear gradually, and early detection can allow us to prolong a good quality of life for as long as possible.

There are many different types of heart disease in dogs, but a few common signs you may notice at home include:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Tiredness
  • Inability to exercise
  • Rapid breathing, even at rest
  • Fainting
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

Dogs over 7 years of age are particularly at risk, however dogs of any age can be affected. Diagnosis is confirmed with a chest radiograph to evaluate the size and shape of the heart in addition to any changed in the lungs. Some conditions will warrant an ultrasound examination.

Treatment is life long. Treated dogs enjoy a better quality of life and generally live longer, but consistent treatment and careful observation is important to achieve a good outcome.

While there are many types of heart disease the above symptoms are often consistent. If your pet has these symptoms, please phone us to book a consult with one of our veterinarians.