Like humans, many things can go wrong with a dog’s health, particularly as we get older, which is why it’s not 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 challenging to learn that your 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 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 comprises four different chambers. This is true for both dogs and humans. 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 connects the left atrium and the left ventricle (the science name 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 performed 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 ensure blood (and, as a result, oxygen) pumps through the heart at the right speed. Now, there are a few things that can go wrong which can lead to “mitral valve disease”:
- Mitral Valve Insufficiency (MVI) – When the mitral valve isn’t working, then things start to leak.
- Endocarditis is due to an infection or chronic oral infection (aka periodontal disease) that results in ruptured chordae tendinae. Those are the things that hold the valve in place. When those don’t work, the valve doesn’t either!
- Mitral Valve Regurgitation – when the valve doesn’t close all the way and blood flow goes 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.
Commonly Affected Breeds
Though any dog can get this, certain breeds are predisposed to it. Breeds such as:
Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease
Specific symptoms and clinical signs show up if your dog has a leaking valve. Most of those symptoms are similar to those of a dog with heart failure. Early indications, however, are a lot less severe. Perhaps your dog has a slight heart murmur or a bit of coughing. Maybe they show 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 truth is that only your veterinarian can diagnose mitral valve disease or degenerative valve disease definitively. How will they do it? First, your vet will likely use a stethoscope to listen to your dog’s heart and do a regular blood pressure check.
Does your dog have a heart murmur, or is there any other inconsistency?
If so, your vet might recommend that your dog receive a chest x-ray to determine what is going on. Other methods of diagnosis include:
- Or some additional heart monitoring.
It’s also common for a veterinary cardiologist to be consulted.
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 ages, you may even consider surgery as a possible option to treat your dog’s condition.
Prognosis of mitral valve disease in dogs
Your dog’s prognosis and life span will depend on many things. Knowing they suffer from mitral valve disease isn’t enough to see if it will shorten their life. It may or may not. It depends on their 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. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. This is why it often saddens us to hear stories about dogs diagnosed with conditions like mitral valve disease whose owners can not afford the treatment they need. Now, this inability to afford the price is no fault of the owner because, let’s face it, vet bills can be costly even when dealing with a healthy pet!
This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.
Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?
No, probably not. 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.