Chronic degenerative valve disease is the most common form of heart disease in dogs. Today our Fremont vets share information to help you better understand the disease and how to care for your dog.
What is Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease?
Chronic degenerative valve disease (CVD) is a slowly progressive degeneration that usually affects the mitral valve in the heart and sometimes is referred to as mitral valve disease. This causes the blood not to flow correctly, called regurgitation, which causes a heart murmur which can be detected by your veterinarian with a stethoscope.
Over time, the thickening of the valve and leaking of the valves causes heart enlargement and the heart muscle weakens. When the heart can no longer accommodate the abnormal blood flow this results in congestive heart failure, demonstrated by coughing and breathing difficulties.
How Many Heart Valves Does a Dog Have?
The heart is divided into right and left sides and is responsible for pumping blood to and from all tissues of the body. The right side of the heart pumps oxygen-deficient blood through the lungs where it is re-oxygenated and carbon dioxide waste is removed. The re-oxygenated blood then enters the left side of the heart where it is pumped out to the body through the aorta and other arteries.
Each side of the heart has two chambers, an upper atrium and a lower ventricle, and two valves, the tricuspid on the right and the mitral on the left. These valves act as one-way gates allowing blood to flow from the upper atrium to the lower ventricle and preventing blood from flowing backward into the atrium when the ventricle pumps.
What Causes Heart Valve Problems in Dogs?
Chronic degenerative valve disease most often affects small breed dogs and is associated with aging. Up to 75% of small breed dogs show evidence of CVD by 7 years of age. Certain breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles spaniel and dachshund can be predisposed to this disease.
Large breed dogs are less prone to develop this condition.
What Are the Symptoms of a Dog with Heart Problems?
There are several symptoms that may present in a dog with chronic degenerative valve disease. These symptoms can indicated other diseases as well which is why it is important to notify your vet if you notice any of these symptoms so that your dog can be assessed and the underlying cause can be determined by your vet.
Not every dog will develop all the following symptoms and many dogs will have more than one.
- Rapid and shallow breathing when resting or sleeping
- Restlessness or agitation while sleeping
- Changes in the position that your dog sleeps in
- Coughing or gagging
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Lethargic or depressed attitude
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Collapse or fainting
- Distended belly
Treatment for Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease in Dogs
In the asymptomatic stages, when the heart is not enlarged and blood pressure is normal, medication is not required.
If heart enlargement is detected and/or high blood pressure, medications may be prescribed to treat heart failure. These medications will be continued throughout your dogs life, although the doses and frequency of administration may change over time.
As the disease progresses, the goal is to help your pet maintain a good quality of life and to keep your dog from heart failure, without harming the kidneys.
How Long Can a Dogs Live with Mitral Valve Disease?
The majority of dogs with asymptomatic CVD will live 2 to 5 years or longer, without ever developing any clinical signs of heart failure.
After diagnosis if heart failure, with appropriate treatment and frequent monitoring, dogs can live 1 to 2 years. Your veterinarian will work with you to manage the treatment, and may make adjustments to the medication to help maintain your dog’s quality of life.
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.