Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in Dogs: Understanding the Silent Heart Condition That Affects Our Canine Companions

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is one of the most prevalent heart conditions in dogs, especially among certain breeds. It occurs when the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart, becomes damaged or weakened, leading to a backflow of blood. MVD is a progressive disease that can affect dogs of various ages and sizes, and its severity can vary from mild to life-threatening. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for MVD is essential for dog owners and veterinarians to provide the best care and support for their canine companions. In this in-depth article, we delve into the world of Mitral Valve Disease in relation to dogs, shedding light on its significance and the steps necessary to manage this cardiac condition.

What Causes Mitral Valve Disease?

The exact cause of Mitral Valve Disease in dogs is not always clear. However, age, genetics, and certain breeds have been identified as contributing factors. Some small breed dogs, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas, are more susceptible to MVD, while large breed dogs can also be affected.

Symptoms and Progression of MVD

MVD typically progresses slowly over time, and its symptoms may vary depending on the stage of the disease. Early stages may not present noticeable signs, while advanced stages can lead to more severe symptoms, including:

  1. Heart Murmurs: An early sign of MVD is the presence of a heart murmur, detected during a veterinary examination.
  2. Coughing: As the disease progresses, dogs may develop a persistent cough, especially during rest or physical activity.
  3. Difficulty Breathing: Dogs with MVD may experience shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, especially during exercise.
  4. Fatigue and Weakness: As the heart struggles to pump efficiently, dogs may show signs of fatigue and weakness.
  5. Fluid Buildup: Advanced stages of MVD can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, abdomen, or limbs, causing swelling and discomfort.

Diagnosing MVD

Diagnosing Mitral Valve Disease typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging, and diagnostic tests. The following steps are often involved:

  1. Listening for Heart Murmurs: During a physical examination, the veterinarian will listen for abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs.
  2. X-rays or Ultrasound: Imaging techniques, like X-rays or echocardiography, can visualize the heart’s structure and assess the severity of MVD.
  3. Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG can detect irregularities in the heart’s electrical activity, which may indicate MVD.

Treatment and Management Options

While there is no cure for Mitral Valve Disease, several treatment and management options are available to improve the dog’s quality of life and slow the progression of the disease:

  1. Medications: Veterinarians may prescribe medications to manage symptoms, such as diuretics to reduce fluid buildup and ACE inhibitors to dilate blood vessels.
  2. Dietary Changes: A specialized diet may be recommended to support heart health and manage weight.
  3. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Regular monitoring and check-ups are essential to track the progression of the disease and adjust treatment as needed.
  4. Exercise and Rest Balance: Ensuring an appropriate balance of exercise and rest can help manage symptoms and prevent undue strain on the heart.
  5. Invasive Procedures: In severe cases, surgical or interventional procedures may be considered, such as balloon valvuloplasty to improve valve function.


Mitral Valve Disease is a common heart condition that affects many dogs, particularly certain breeds. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for MVD is crucial for providing the best care and support for our furry companions. Early detection, regular veterinary check-ups, and appropriate management strategies can significantly improve the quality of life for dogs with MVD. As responsible pet owners, awareness of this cardiac condition is essential in ensuring the well-being and happiness of our beloved canine friends throughout their lives.