What is Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs?

What is Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs?

What is it?

Mitral valve disease (MVD) is one of the dogs’ most common cardiac diseases. It is caused by changes to the mitral valve that leads to a blood flow leak. This can result in weakened heart muscle, fluid buildup around the lungs and other organs, and eventual heart failure. 

How is it Treated?

Mitral valve disease in dogs can be treated with various indications and therapies. Commonly used medications include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and diuretics, which help reduce the amount of fluid buildup within the body and lessen the strain on the heart. In addition, surgical inventions, such as balloon valvulopathies or mitral valve replacement, may be available in some cases. 

Breed Predispositions

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dachshund Miniature Schnauzer Poodle Chihuahua Boston Terrier Fox Terrier Jack Russell Terrier Yorkshire Terrier Shih Tzu


Every evening, Emma cherished her daily walks with Charlie, her devoted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Over time, however, she noticed that Charlie was becoming increasingly fatigued and short of breath during their outings. Worried about her beloved companion, Emma took him to the veterinarian for a thorough examination. After careful evaluation, the vet diagnosed Charlie with degenerative mitral valve disease, a progressive heart condition that affects many dogs.

Mitral valve insufficiency (MVI) is a valvular heart disease where the mitral valve does not close properly. This allows blood to flow backward through the heart instead of forward. It causes congestive heart failure, shortness of breath, coughing, exercise intolerance, and fatigue. About 10 percent of dogs will develop some form of cardiac disease during their lifetimes, and most of these cases are caused by mitral valve insufficiencies. 

MVI may be congenital or acquired. Congenital MVI usually results from abnormal development of the valves during fetal life. Acquired MVI is often associated with degenerative valve disease, chordae tendinae, papillary muscles, or surrounding structures.

  • The congenital Mitral Valve is commonly seen in large-breed dogs, especially Great Danes. Other breeds affected include Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, Siberian Huskies, and Vizsla.
  • Acquired Mitral Valve is standard in small breed dogs, including Chihuahuas, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire Terriers, and Toy Poodles.

If left untreated, MVI can lead to cardiovascular disease or death. The most common cause of MVI is a degenerative disease of the mitral valve leaflets. Other possible causes include congenital disabilities, rheumatic fever, bacterial endocarditis, trauma, and neoplasia.

Causes of Mitral Valve Disease in Canine

Mitral valve disease is caused primarily by wear and tear of your heart’s mitral valve. This occurs because the mitral valve doesn’t close entirely during each heartbeat. As it opens, blood flows backward into the left atrium. Over time, the leaflets become stiffer and less flexible, causing the valve to leak. If the leakage becomes severe enough, the valve no longer closes properly, allowing blood to flow backward into the left atrium during systole.

  • Mitral Stenosis

The most common type of mitral valve disease is called mitral stenosis. In this case, the mitral valve does not open fully due to fibrosis or calcification of the valve tissue. When the valve fails to open completely, the pressure against the left ventricle walls increases, which stresses the muscle fibers surrounding the chamber. Eventually, the increased workload leads to the thickening of the muscles, scarring, and wall stiffness.

  • Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Another type of mitral valve disorder is called mitral valve regurgitation. The valve doesn’t completely close off, so some blood flows back into your left atrium from your right atrium. Regurgitation usually happens when there are tears in one or both of the chordae tendineae, which are cords that connect the leaflet to the papillary muscle.

These tears allow the leaflets to prolapse or fold inward. Once the leaflets prolapse, the valve cannot seal tightly, resulting in leaking. As a result, dogs with mitral regurgitation may experience shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, and swelling in the left side of their neck or chest.

Infection of the valve is a rare cause of mitral valve disease. In this situation, bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel to the valve. They attach themselves to the lining of the valve, causing inflammation and scarring. Eventually, the valve begins to fail.

  • Myxomatous Valve Disease

Myxomatous Valve Disease (MMVD) is another mitral valve disease affecting older dogs. It is characterized by thickened, rubbery-like tissues in the valve. The condition is more common in larger breeds such as Great Danes, St. Bernard Dogs, and Mastiffs.

Dogs with MMVD may have symptoms similar to those associated with other types of mitral valve disease, but they also often experience coughing, exercise intolerance, and weight gain.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of MVI vary depending on the severity of the condition. Clinical signs may be mild, severe, or intermittent. A leaky valve may be detected by listening for a murmur. This occurs when blood flows backward from the right side of the heart into the left atrium because of a leaky mitral valve. Auscultation reveals a systolic rumble over the left side of the chest; the diastolic rumble is less audible.

For mild symptoms, occasional coughing, exercise intolerance, or fatigue are the possible signs. For severe ones, symptoms include difficulty breathing during exertion, rapid weight gain, lethargy, weakness, or syncope. Intermittent symptoms include palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, or lightheadedness.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Diagnosis of Canine Mitral Valve Insufficiency

Canine Mitral Valve Disease (CMVD) diagnosis is made by performing an echocardiogram and reviewing the results with a cardiologist. Echocardiograms are ultrasound tests used to view internal organs. They’re performed by placing a probe over the heart and watching the beating organ through a monitor.

  • Electrocardiography (ECG) is a simple test used to diagnose heart problems in dogs. Electrodes placed on the dog’s chest record electrical activity from the heart. An ECG shows the pattern of these waves, called P waves, QRS complexes, T waves, and U waves.
  • Chest X-Rays or chest radiographs are other diagnostic tools used to evaluate CMVD. Chest X-Rays are taken by positioning the patient inside a large machine called a CXR scanner. This device uses radiation to create an image of the lungs and heart.
  • Cardiac Catheterization is a procedure where a small tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin area and threaded into the heart. Blood samples are drawn during this test. These samples are sent to a lab for analysis. Results are reviewed with a cardiologist who makes the final decision regarding treatment options.

Treatment options depend on the severity of symptoms and whether surgery is required.

Treatment for Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Dogs with degenerative mitral valve disease can be treated with medication, dietary modification, and surgery. Medication helps reduce fluid retention and improve symptoms. Surgery can be performed to repair the mitral valve.


Two types of medications are used to treat MVD in dogs: diuretics and beta blockers. Diuretics reduce fluid retention, allowing blood pressure to return to normal. Beta-blockers slow down the heartbeat, reducing stress on the heart and improving its function.

Both treatments effectively relieve symptoms associated with MVD, including coughing, exercise intolerance, and fatigue. However, there are side effects associated with each treatment. Diuretics may cause electrolyte imbalances, kidney damage, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Beta-blockers may cause drowsiness, depression, weakness, muscle tremors, and stomach upset.

Treatment for degenerative mitral valve disease in dogs

Dietary Modification

Dogs with mitral valve disease need special diets to help them heal properly. The diet should contain protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It should also include extra protein and omega fatty acids.

Some dogs may require additional supplements, including omega fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and vitamin D3. In addition, your vet can recommend specific foods based on your dog’s age, breed, weight, activity level, lifestyle, and medical history.


There are many treatments available for canine mitral valve disease (CMVD). The most common treatment is surgery. However, there are several types of surgeries available. Some are minimally invasive, some require open heart surgery, and others are performed through a catheter.

Surgery is usually recommended when CMVD is severe enough to cause symptoms. Surgery may be done at any age, although older dogs fare better than younger ones. Older dogs often need multiple procedures over the years to correct the problem.

Prevention of Mitral Valve Insufficiency in Dogs

  1. Preventing mitral valve disease in your dog starts with proper nutrition. Feeding a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has improved survival rates in dogs with mitral valve disease. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish oils such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, and anchovies
  2. Other dietary supplements that may benefit dogs with mitral valve problems include antioxidants, probiotics, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, and garlic.
  3. Proper dental care is another essential part of preventing pet mitral valve disease. Pet mitral valve disease Dental tartar buildup can cause inflammation of the gums leading to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease leads to gum recession, tooth loss, and eventually, infection of the heart valves.
  4. Regular veterinary visits are essential to maintaining oral health. Regular brushing and flossing of teeth help remove plaque and tartar. In addition, cleaning teeth daily with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste reduces the risk of developing periodontal disease.
  5. Keeping your pet active is another critical component in preventing mitral valve disease. Exercise improves overall health and prevents obesity. Dogs should walk for at least 30 minutes every day. Walking your dog regularly also keeps him fit and trimmed.
  6. Avoid stress whenever possible. Stress can trigger episodes of vomiting and diarrhea in your pet, weakening the immune system and contributing to mitral valve disease.
  7. Keep your dog’s immune system strong and avoid areas where he may encounter fleas or ticks. Flea infestations can cause irritation of the skin and coat, which can result in secondary infections. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain sp, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, tularemia, and tick paralysis.
  8. Ensure your dog receives regular vaccinations against infectious diseases such as parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, rabies, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Vaccination against these diseases protects your dog from contracting these illnesses.
  9. It is essential to monitor your dog closely after surgery. Make sure your veterinarian checks his wound frequently to ensure healing correctly. In addition, monitor your dog for blue and watch excessive drainage from the incision site.
  10. Besides monitoring your dog after surgery, ensure he gets plenty of rest and attention following any procedure. Avoid strenuous activity until your vet gives you clearance.

Frequently Asked Questions

The average life expectancy of dogs with mitral valve disease is approximately seven years. Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of death in dogs with mitral valve prolapse. Other causes include bacterial endocarditis, thromboembolism, and sudden cardiac death. Treatment options include surgery, medication, and dietary changes.

The condition usually affects older dogs and is often seen in large breed dogs such as Great Danes, Rottweilers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Labradors, and Bull Terriers.

Some of the signs of worsening heart failure in dogs may include: difficulty breathing, coughing up mucus, Panting excessively, increased frequency or amount of urination, rapid weight loss or gain (trying to keep up with Activity Level even if not eating or drinking), decreased appetite and reluctance to eat/drink. In some cases, lameness may also occur.

The life expectancy of a dog depends on many factors, such as breed, age, health condition, environment, nutrition, lifestyle, etc. The average lifespan of a healthy dog is 12 years. A dog’s lifespan varies from 4 to 16 years. However, if a dog suffers from congenital heart disease, its life expectancy decreases significantly. In this case, the life expectancy of a healthy dog is reduced to 3 to 5 years.

If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, talk to his veterinarian about how much exercise he needs. He might recommend different types of activities depending on his condition. Your vet will tell you what kind of exercise is best for him.

You can also ask your vet if there are any special precautions you need to follow when exercising your dog. For example, some breeds are prone to heat stroke. Make sure your dog always drinks plenty of water before and after exercise. Also, make sure he gets plenty of rest afterward.

Heart disease progresses faster in older dogs than younger ones. The average age at which heart disease occurs in dogs isten0 years old. Therefore, if your dog is under five, they are less likely to develop heart problems. However, you are more likely to develop heart disease if you have a dog over 15 years old.

The disease’s progression can vary from dog to dog but is typically slow. With time, the regurgitant fluid will build up in the left ventricle and eventually overflow into the left atrium.

Yes. The most common symptom of canine obesity is excessive sleeping. The dog’s body weight increases due to fat accumulation around its organs and muscles. This causes them to become sluggish. As a result, they tend to sleep longer than usual. If this continues, they may develop health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, and heart disease.

Dogs cough with mitral valve disease when they have a heart murmur. The mitral valve is located at the top of the left ventricle (the lower chamber) and connects the left atrium (upper chamber) to the left ventricle. A dog’s mitral valve opens and closes during each heartbeat. When this valve doesn’t close properly, blood flows backward into the lungs through the pulmonary artery.

This causes the lungs to fill up with air, which makes them feel tight and uncomfortable. So if you notice your dog coughing while lying down, there could be something wrong with their mitral valve.

Generally, if your dog has a significant heart murmur or regurgitation (when food and liquids move quickly from the stomach to the throat), it may suffer from stage b1 mitral valve disease. If so, your veterinarian will likely recommend that your dog undergo surgery to replace their damaged mitral valve with a new one.

In dogs with stage b2 mitral valve disease, the left atrium is enlarged, and blood regurgitation may occur. There may also be heart failure, respiratory problems, or neurological symptoms.

MVD is a severe dog disease that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Symptoms of mitral valve disease include coughing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, lethargy, fever, and weakness. If left untreated, MVD can lead to heart failure.

There is no known genetic cause of mitral valve disease in dogs. However, some breeds may be predisposed to the condition because of their genetics.

Yes, dogs can have mitral valve replacements. However, this is a complex surgery and the prognosis is only sometimes good. Therefore, your veterinarian must thoroughly examine your dog to determine if it is a candidate for surgery.

Some studies suggest that smaller dogs may have a higher risk of developing certain types of heart disease due to their genetic predispositions and overall health. So, keeping your pet healthy is always essential by giving them the optimal diet, exercise regimen, and regular veterinary checkups.

Several things, including heart failure, valve defect, or infection, can cause dogs with degenerative atrioventricular valve disease. What are the symptoms? The most common symptom of this disease in many dogs is a sudden onset of chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include coughing up blood (hemoptysis), exercise intolerance, lethargy, and an enlarged heart or pulmonary arteries on a chest x-ray.

Mitral valve disease is a common heart condition in which the mitral valve does not function properly. The result can be an increased workload for the heart, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), and difficulty breathing.

There is no cure for mitral valve disease in dogs, but treatment typically includes medication to improve the heart’s function and surgery to correct the valve.

MMVD is diagnosed by evaluating the patient’s medical history and symptoms. The vet will also perform a physical exam and may order imaging tests, such as an echocardiogram or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, to determine the extent of the condition.

Yes. The vast majority of dogs who have mitral valve disease and are treated with surgery recover fully. However, some dogs treated surgically for mitral valve disease may develop complications, such as heart failure.

Mitral valve prolapse is due to the stenting of fibrous tissue and fat deposition in the mitral annulus. This can cause a narrowing of the mitral valve’s space, leading to its eventual failure.

A heart murmur is a sound that occurs when the heart muscle makes noise. There are many different types of heart murmurs, which can indicate serious health problems.

A variety of factors can cause heart valve problems. The most common causes include genetic predispositions, age, congenital disabilities, environmental factors (such as exposure to toxins), infections, and diseases such as Myocarditis or cardiomyopathy.

Dogs of all ages and breeds are at risk for heart valve malfunction, but dogs with a family history of heart disease or other medical conditions are at the highest risk.

This is a general term for diseases that damage the heart valves. The most common type is mitral stenosis, which occurs when the small ring around the edge of your heart’s left ventricles (the lower chamber) becomes too narrow. This can cause severe shortness of breath and chest pain. Other types include valvular heart failure, annuloplasty surgery to restore function to defective valves, and apical balloon dilation syndrome (ABSD).

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a type of mitral valve disease that can lead to heart failure. MMVD is a more severe form of MVP in which the mitral valve Prolapse becomes large and doesn’t close properly, allowing fluid accumulation and damage to the surrounding tissues. This often results in heart disease in dogs, stroke, or death.

There is no definitive answer to this question, as the prognosis for mitral valve disease in dogs can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the disease and whether or not treatment is successful. In general, however, most affected dogs will experience some degree of heart failure due to their condition and typically succumb to it after several years.

Some drugs that are safe for a dog with congestive heart failure and mitral valve disease include inhibitors (e.g., enalapril), beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol), and calcium channel blockers (e.g., nifedipine). Conversely, some drugs that should be avoided in this population include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, vasodilators (such as nitroglycerin), and digoxin.

Congestive heart failure in dogs can develop for several reasons. The most common cause is an old age process called “cardiomyopathy.” This means the heart muscle becomes so weak that it can’t pump blood effectively. Other causes include viral infections, congenital disabilities, and other medical conditions. Clinical signs of heart failure in dogs include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, coughing blood, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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