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Myxomatous Mitral Valve Degeneration: The Most Common Acquired Heart Disease in Dogs

July 17, 2013

By Sara Bordelon, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Auburn, Alabama —

Myxomatous mitral valve degeneration (MMVD) is the most common acquired heart disease in dogs.  MMVD is a disease that results from changes in the structure of the mitral valve. These structural changes lead to inappropriate closure of the valve and leakage of blood from the left ventricle backward into the left atrium when the heart is contracting.

Initial diagnosis of MMVD generally consists of auscultation (listening to body sounds with a stethoscope) of a heart murmur over the area of the mitral valve on physical examination.  The diagnosis is confirmed using a combination of thoracic x-rays and echocardiography (ultrasound examination of the heart).  Additional diagnostics such as blood pressure, ECG, and evaluation of renal function are recommended on a case by case basis. 

Most dogs with MMVD are asymptomatic for a long period of time however a percentage of dogs with this disease will develop signs consistent with heart disease such as exercise intolerance and coughing, and will progress to left sided congestive heart failure (fluid build-up in the lungs).  Signs of heart failure may include progressively worsening cough, exercise intolerance, increased resting breathing rate and/or effort, and weakness or collapse. If your pet is suspected of having MMVD consult with your veterinarian about a referral to a veterinary Cardiologist.  Evaluation of patients with heart disease by a board certified Cardiologist will help to determine if medical treatment is indicated, and will provide you with the tools needed to recognize congestive heart failure early. 

For questions about mitral valve degeneration, contact Dr. Sara Bordelon or Dr. Seungwoo Jung. Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 334-844-4690. 

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