Skip to Main Content

Healthy Pet Care Tips

Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs

Mitral valve disease in dogs is a serious condition that can lead to blood leaking during heart muscle contractions. This can cause further issues like heart murmurs and more serious consequences to your dog's health. Today, our PetVet Care Centers member vets discuss mitral valve disease including signs and treatments.

What Dogs Are Affected By Mitral Valve Disease?

This is a very common disease that affects dogs after about 8 years old. Small breeds of dog are more prone to this condition, including Chihuahuas, Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, Whippets, Cocker Spaniels, as well as some larger breeds and mixed breeds of dogs.

What Causes Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs?

The heart has 4 valves, and the mitral valve separates the left ventricle from the left atrium. In healthy dogs, this valve shuts when the heart contracts, preventing blood from 'backing up' or regurgitating back into the atrium.

A leaky mitral valve can cause a cascade of other issues, including an enlarged atrium, fluid buildup in the lungs, and damage to the structures of the heart. 

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Early on, many dogs will exhibit almost no signs, or symptoms so subtle that their loving owners may mistake it for normal slowing down associated with aging. That said, some common signs in dogs with mitral valve disease include:

  • Intolerance for exercise
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Collapse
  • Weakness
Since the symptoms can be vague, it is important to contact your primary veterinarian to have your dog seen for a physical examination.

Diagnosing Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Only your veterinarian will be able to correctly diagnose your dog. When you take your dog in, the vet will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination of your pet. This gives your veterinarian a chance to detect the presence of a heart murmur long before other, more serious symptoms develop. Your vet is also likely to recommend a number of other diagnostic tests, including:

  • Radiography: X-rays can give us more information about your dog's internal condition, including the presence of any fluid in the lungs
  • Echocardiography: This diagnostic tool is a way to better understand the structure and function of the valves and heart
  • NT-proBNP: This blood test can show indications of advanced heart failure, especially if there is a large amount of 'regurgitated' blood

Your dog may also need further testing to check the functioning of their other internal systems, to clear them for use of the medications needed to treat its condition.

Treating Mitral Valve Disease In Dogs

There are a large number of drugs that can be used to address mitral valve disease in your pooch, meaning that it's critical for the type and dosage of medications must be carefully calculated for each unique case.

As this disease is progressive, there are different medications used at different points during your dog's condition. Some of the most commonly used drugs for treating this disease in canines can include:

  • Diuretics (e.g. furosemide)
  • Vasodilators (e.g. enalapril, benazapril, pimobendan)
  • Positive inotropes (e.g. pimobendan, digoxin)

Depending on your dog's case, they may be prescribed other drugs to deal with health issues like high pressure in the vessels of the lungs

Sadly, there is no known cure for this disease at this time, and the medications are palliative in nature to ensure your dog's comfort and extend its life as much as possible. 

Prognosis For Dogs With Mitral Valve Disease 

Your dog's prognosis will depend on how far its disease has advanced by the time it is diagnosed. If caught early, many dogs can live for many more years, while others with symptoms could only survive a few months.

Having your dog diagnosed by a veterinarian can determine the presence of the disease as well as the stage, so that appropriate treatment can begin. 

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.

If your dog has been diagnosed with mitral valve disease or another advanced heart condition, contact a PetVet Care Centers location near you for treatment options.

Find a Vet Near You

Our veterinary teams understand how precious your pet is to you. We offer the quality of care you expect for your furry friends.

Find a Hospital

Practice OwnersCareers