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A new treatment for Heart Valve problems in smaller dogs

A recent study has confirmed for the first time that small/ medium size breeds of dog that have problems with their mitral heart valve, causing leakage of blood back past the valve and reducing the pumping effect of the heart, can be helped by a drug which has been used in other heart diseases.

This has been shown to delay the onset of congestive heart failure for up to 15 months.

The mitral valve is the valve that allows oxygenated blood returning from the lungs to flow from the left atrium where it collects before being pushed into the main pumping chamber the left ventricle.

The drug Pimobendan has previously been mainly used in Large and Giant breeds that are affected by a heart muscle problem called Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

The new research which studied 360 dogs at multiple centres including the Royal Vet college is the EPIC study (details can be found here).

This showed that once a heart murmur which has been detected by your vet reaches a certain grade (loudness score) then screening should be carried out to show if the heart chambers are becoming enlarged by ultrasound examination (An Echocardiogram).

This is because as dogs move towards heart failure their heart enlarges first and it is at this point that adding in the new drug is helpful in delaying the stage at which you dog starts to show signs of heart failure i.e. inability to exercise properly, coughing, increased breathing rate which all relate to lack of ability to pump and accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

We routinely check your dog’s heart when we examine them in the surgery for appointments such as vaccination as well as when they are present as ill and using a stethoscope we can determine if they actually have a murmur and if it is sufficiently advanced to need screening.

Mitral valve disease primarily affects dogs under 25 kg over 5-6 years old and this was the target groups in the research mitral valve problems are especially prevalent in breeds like the cavalier king Charles spaniel.

If necessary Ian or Catherine can perform an ultrasound examination in the practice to see if your pet would benefit from the new advice.