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Canine Valvular Disease

Canine Valvular Disease

What Is Canine Valvular Disease?

Simply defined, Canine Valvular Disease (VHD) is an irregularity in the function of the heart, caused by the thickening and breakdown of the valves of the heart.

Dog’s heart is separated into 4 heart chambers (2 atria and 2 ventricles) divided by a wall and two valves. The right portion of the heart pumps deoxygenated blood to the lungs in which CO 2 waste is eliminated and it is re-oxygenated. The blood (re-oxygenated) then moves into the left side of the heart, to the left atrium through the pulmonary veins and the left ventricle, which pump out to the rest of the body through the pulmonary artery and as other arteries such as the aorta take care of the rest.

The two valves are mitral on the left and the tricuspid on the right. These valves are actual flaps acting as gatekeepers permitting blood through the valves to gush from the atria and then into the ventricles (between heartbeats). When the heart beats (contracts), ventricular pressure increases and results in the closure of the tricuspid and mitral valves. Then the blood that is trapped in the ventricles is expelled from the heart to the rest of the body.

During the ventricle pumping, the blood and the valve keep the blood moving through the heart in the right direction and prevent the backward flow of blood into the atrium.

Canine valvular disease is a progressive deterioration that generally affects the valves in the heart. Eventually, the thickening and leakage of the valves cause’ heart enlargement resulting in the weakening of the heart muscle. The heart can no longer hold the unusual blood flow resulting in congestive cardiac failure.

When the valves are not functioning properly, this also results in abnormal backward flow of the blood through the valve (regurgitation) causing a heart murmur.

Symptoms Of Canine Valvular Disease

  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Slow/fast/erratic heart rate
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Labored breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased respiratory rate

Treatment Options For Canine Valvular Disease

  • Diuretics (water pills): To reduce fluid buildup in the body by eliminating extra fluid and salt. Spironolactone, Furosemide etc.
  • Heart Valve Surgery: To repair or replace the damaged or diseased heart valves.
  • Congestive heart failure - an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor (benazepril, lisinopril, or enalapril), diuretics like spironolactone, furosemide, etc.
  • Extra medications that might be used are sildenafil, valsartan/sacubitril/, and torsemide.

Home Remedies For Canine Valvular Disease

  • Talk to Your Veterinarians and understand your pet’s treatment options.
  • Pain can be so subtle in dogs - access your dog’s pain and watch out for any abnormal behavior.
  • Don’t forget even sick dogs need a few low-stress activities and a lot of rest.
  • Work with your vet to find the optimal dietary plan for your dog.
  • Home remedies such as herbs, diet, and exercise will depend on your dog’s age and stage of the disease they are in.

How To Prevent Canine Valvular Disease?

There are no dependable methods to prevent heart disease in dogs, particularly since few of the common types are hereditary. But you can take steps to help your dog live a healthy life.

Healthy Diet: Always feed your pup a healthy diet that includes Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil) and Taurine (amino acid).

Adequate Exercise: Exercise is good for cardiac health. However, when your pup has been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to limit strenuous exercises.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Canine Valvular Disease

Dachshund, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, Boston Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Fox Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, Toy Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingese

Causes And Types For Canine Valvular Disease

  1. Causes:
  • Cardiac causes of the valvular disease include:

Congenital heart defects (especially Bicuspid aortic valve disease).

Heart muscle disease (such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, etc).

Myocarditis (inflammation of the myocardium).

Severe valve leakage and enlargement of the cardiac chambers (chronic degenerative mitral valve disease).

Trauma to the heart muscle (such as a dog being hit by a car).

Age-related changes.

  • Non-cardiac causes of the valvular disease include:

Inflammation of the pancreas.

Severe anemia (low red blood cell count).

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (stomach twists around filled fills with large amounts of air).

Muscular Dystrophy.

Anesthetic agents, toxins, and medications.

  1. Types:

I. Regurgitation (leaking):

  • Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
  • Pulmonary Valve Regurgitation
  • Mitral Valve Regurgitation
  • Aortic Valve Regurgitation

II. Valvular Stenosis (narrowing):

  • Tricuspid Valve Stenosis: Tricuspid Valve Narrowing
  • Pulmonary Valve Stenosis: Pulmonary Valve Narrowing
  • Mitral Valve Stenosis: The Mitral Valve Narrowing
  • Aortic Valve Stenosis: When the aortic valve narrows

III. Valvular Prolapse (slipping out of place):

  • Mitral Valve, Tricuspid, Pulmonary, and Aortic Valve Prolapse.
  1. Mortality:

In general, Valuvular diseases are serious and lead to life-threatening complications without proper treatment. Luckily, valvular diseases are rare in dogs and the mortality rate is less than 2%.

  1. Diagnosis:
  • A complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile
  • X-ray
  • Cardiac biomarker blood test - NTproBNP
  • ECG (electrocardiograph) / echocardiogram
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  1. Prognosis:

The overall prognosis of infectious/acute/idiopathic valvular disease prognosis is excellent, with most dogs experiencing a complete recovery after appropriate treatment.

Veterinary cardiologists say that dogs with severe VHD are those having other heart defects that are likely to have developed in tandem with the defect itself.

Dogs with a severe defect will start to show symptoms within three years of age. Congestive heart failure may develop in VHD dogs once the heart gets weaker.

VHD is a hereditary condition that is considered to be the result of multiple genetic factors.

When To See A Vet For Canine Valvular Disease?

  • Weakness
  • Slow/fast/erratic heart rate
  • Labored breathing

Food Suggestions For Canine Valvular Disease

  • Use no salts in food or cooking.
  • Canned, frozen, and prepared pet foods are high in sodium.
  • Fresh meats are usually low in sodium.

The mainstays of a good low-sodium diet may be chicken, fresh beef, pork, bland macaroni, and/or low-sodium.


  • Rice (plain white or brown rice, not flavored)
  • Lean, home-cooked meats (chicken, turkey, beef, fish)
  • Pasta
  • Honey
  • Low-sodium cheese (Look for the Heart Healthy labeling)
  • Homemade Soup
  • Maple Syrup
  • Eggs, cooked
  • Fresh vegetables/fruit (green beans, carrots, banana, apple, orange)


The prognosis for valvular disease in dogs depends on its severity and how early it was treated. The survival rate for dogs that undergo surgical repair for idiopathic valvular diseases is good.

Obviously, recurrence of valvular diseases is not possible after surgical procedures. Many dogs can live normal lives if they are without any other complications. Dogs with mild symptoms can be managed with medications.

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