Canine Mitral Valve Disease
Canine Mitral Valve disease is the most common reason for congestive heart failure in dogs. It occurs when the Mitral Valve does not close correctly allowing blood to leak back into the left atrium. In turn this causes a back up of blood in the lungs which allows leakage of fluid from the capillaries into the lungs. The buildup of these fluids, known as pulmonary edema, makes it increasingly difficult for your dog to get oxygen.
Dog Heart Murmur
In a healthy dog, blood flows to and from the heart via two ventricles and two atria that are connected by valves. When the valves do not fit together properly, leaks occur and cause turbulent blood flow. This sound, known as a heart murmur, is detectable via a stethoscope. The only way to identify the source of the murmur and confirm a leaky mitral valve is with a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram).
Canine Mitral Valve Disease Symptoms
Two factors combine to make canine Mitral Valve disease difficult to detect until serious health problems ensue. First, the most obvious symptom, a dog heart murmur, is generally only detectable using a stethoscope. Second, since your dog’s body will likely be able to compensate for the negative effects of canine mitral valve disease for months, you probably will not notice any definite symptoms of its presence until congestive heart failure ensues. At this point your dog might begin drooling excessively, have a blue tongue and even collapse. It also might begin coughing repeatedly or even gagging due to the onset of pulmonary edema.
While obvious symptoms of canine Mitral Valve disease are limited, you should be on the lookout for any changes in your dog’s behavior. For instance, if your dog is usually excited to go on a walk, but suddenly seems reluctant to do so, this could be a sign of trouble. Similarly, if your dog seems sluggish or weak, or if it appears to have trouble catching its breath, these too could be symptoms of canine mitral valve disease. If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from canine mitral valve disease, consult a veterinarian. Annual exams are also important since murmurs can be picked up at the time of the exam.
Canine Mitral Valve Disease Treatment
Treatment of canine Mitral Valve disease is similar to treatment of similar heart problems in humans. It involves using diuretics like Lasix to decrease the fluid in the body, or vasodilators like Enalapril or Pimobendan which decreases the fluid load on the heart. Pimobendan also has the added benefit of helping the heart to contract. These medications can have negative side effects on the kidney so kidney values will be monitored by your vet on a regular basis. There is no cure for Mitral Valve disease however these medications can help improve the length and quality of your dog’s life significantly. In addition to medications, a heart healthy diet (low salt), weight management and avoiding extremes of heat, cold, smoke, dust and high humidity will also minimize the stress on the heart.
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