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Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs… What is it? What can I do to help out my dog?

Like humans, there are many things that can go wrong in a dog’s health, particularly as we all get older, which is why it’s not all that uncommon for folks to learn that their dog has developed a heart problem.  Especially one as common as mitral valve disease.

But just because…

Mitral valve disease isn’t all that uncommon doesn’t make it any less difficult to learn that you dog may be suffering from it.  This is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what it might be like to own a dog that has been diagnosed with mitral valve disease this way you’ll be better prepared for what to expect.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

What is Mitral Valve Disease?

As you may already know, the heart is made up of four different chambers. This is true for both dogs and humans. And in each, the valve joining the upper and lower chambers of the heart in the left atrium is known as the mitral valve.

More specifically…

This valve actually connects the left atrium and the left ventricle (those are the science names for each chamber). The mitral valve is a one-way valve that helps with left ventricular and left atrial functionality and can lead to atrial enlargement when not performing correctly.

So, what’s mitral valve disease in dogs?

It’s basically when the valve isn’t functioning the way it should. The valve’s job is to make sure blood (and as a result oxygen) pump through the heart at the right speed. Now there are a few things that can go wrong which can lead to “mitral valve disease”:

  1. Mitral Valve Insufficiency (MVI) – When the mitral valve isn’t working, then things start to leak.
  2. Endocarditis – due to an infection or some kind of chronic oral infection (aka periodontal disease) that results in ruptured chordae tendinae. Those are the things which hold the valve in place. Clearly, when those don’t work, the valve doesn’t either!
  3. Mitral Valve Regurgitation – when the valve doesn’t close all the way and blood flow is going the wrong way – back to the heart rather than out to the lungs and body.

Mitral valve disease is the most common type of canine heart disease.

Dogs breeds that are at an increased risk

Though any dog can get this, there are certain breeds that are predisposed to it. Breeds such as:

  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Chihuahuas
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Symptoms of mitral valve disease in dogs

There are certain symptoms and clinical signs that show up if your dog has a leaking valve. Most of those symptoms are similar to a dog with heart failure.

Early signs…

However, are a lot less severe. Perhaps your dog has a slight heart murmur or a bit of coughing. Maybe he/she shows signs of exercise intolerance or breathing problems. These are some basic signs that could indicate that your dog has a heart problem.

Diagnosis of mitral valve disease in dogs

The honest truth is that only your veterinarian is going to be able to definitively diagnose mitral valve disease or degenerative valve disease. How will he or she do it? First, your vet will likely use a stethoscope to listen to your dog’s heart and do a normal blood pressure check.

Does your dog have a heart murmur or is there any other inconsistency?

If so, then your vet might recommend that your dog receive a chest x-ray to determine for sure what is going on.  Other methods of diagnosis include an:

  • EKG,
  • Ultrasounds,
  • Or some other heart monitoring.

It’s also common for a veterinary cardiologist to be consulted.

Treatment of mitral valve disease in dogs

There are a few treatment options for degenerative mitral valve disease. Your dog may get a heart medication like ace inhibitors, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, or Pimobendane to start. This may work for some time. As the dog gets older, you may even consider surgery as a possible option to treat your dog’s condition.

Prognosis of mitral valve disease in dogs

The prognosis and life span of your dog will depend on a lot of things. Simply knowing he/she suffers from mitral valve disease isn’t enough to know if it will cut his/her life short. It may, it may not. It really depends on his/her access to medical treatment and the severity of it all.

Which brings us…

To a good spot where we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who are passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

Which is why…

It often saddens us to hear stories about dogs who are diagnosed with conditions like mitral valve disease whose owners simply can not afford the cost of treatment that they need.  Now this inability to afford the cost is no fault of the owner, because let’s face it, vet bills can be very expensive even when dealing with a healthy pet!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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