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Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is the most common heart condition in dogs, particularly affecting older, small dog breeds to medium sized dog breeds. This progressive disease involves the degeneration of the mitral valve, leading to the inefficient pumping of blood and subsequent development of congestive heart failure. Understanding MVD is crucial for early diagnosis and effective management.


MVD typically affects older dogs and can lead to significant health problems if not managed properly. The disease causes the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and the left ventricle of the heart, to malfunction. This leads to the backflow of blood into the atrium, a condition known as mitral regurgitation. Over time, this can cause heart enlargement and reduced cardiac efficiency.

Signs and Symptoms of MVD

Early Signs

Early detection of MVD is often difficult because the initial symptoms can be subtle. They include:

  • Mild cough: Especially after exercise or excitement.
  • Reduced activity levels: Dogs may become less willing to play or exercise.

Advanced Symptoms

As MVD progresses, more serious symptoms can develop, such as:

  • Persistent coughing: Becomes more noticeable and frequent.
  • Difficulty breathing: May exhibit increased effort or rate, particularly after activity.
  • Fatigue: Dogs tire more easily and may rest more than usual.
  • Fainting or collapsing: Can occur due to decreased cardiac output.

Treatment for MVD


The cornerstone of managing MVD involves medications that aim to reduce symptoms and slow disease progression:

  • ACE inhibitors: Help to decrease the load on the heart by dilating blood vessels.
  • Diuretics: Used to reduce fluid build-up in the lungs and abdomen.
  • Positive inotropes: Improve the heart’s ability to pump blood

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Dietary adjustments and lifestyle modifications can also play a supportive role in managing MVD:

  • Low-sodium diet: Helps to minimize fluid retention.
  • Moderate exercise: Maintains fitness without overstraining the heart.

Surgical Options

In some cases, especially in advanced stages or when medical management is insufficient, surgical intervention might be considered. This can include procedures to repair or replace the mitral valve, though such surgeries are complex and require specialized veterinary care.


The prognosis for a dog with MVD depends on the stage of the disease at diagnosis and how well the condition is managed with treatment. Early intervention can lead to a good quality of life for several years, even as the disease progresses.

Living with MVD

Living with a dog with MVD requires ongoing care and monitoring:

  • Regular veterinary visits: Frequent check-ups to assess heart function and disease progression.
  • Monitoring at home: Keeping an eye on symptoms like coughing and breathing difficulties.
  • Medication adherence: Ensuring medications are administered as prescribed.

Choosing a Veterinarian

When managing a disease as complex as MVD, it’s essential to work with a veterinarian experienced in cardiac care, or even better, a veterinary cardiologist. They can provide more specialized guidance and treatment options.


Mitral Valve Disease is a significant health issue in dogs but can be managed effectively with proper veterinary care and owner vigilance. Early recognition and treatment are key to helping extend and improve the quality of life for dogs with this condition.

Further Reading

  1. Veterinary Partner – Mitral Valve Disease: Offers detailed information on the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of MVD in dogs.
  2. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine – Heart Conditions: Provides professional insights into various heart conditions, including MVD, with guides on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
  3. The American Kennel Club – Heart Disease in Dogs: Discusses various forms of heart disease, including MVD, and their impact on dogs’ health.22

Thank you for your interest in our article on Mitral Valve Disease in dogs. Be sure to check out the many comprehensive articles on our Dog Health Problems home page.

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