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Degenerative Valve Disease in Dogs

Cavalier King Charles Spaneil posing for the camera

Pictured: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are at particularly high risk


Degenerative Value Disease is a condition where the leaflets of the heart valve thicken and become nodular. This causes mitral valve regurgitation and volume overload of the left side of the dog’s heart. Mitral valve disease is a common reason behind congestive heart failure in dogs.

Mitral valve deficiency is actually the most common acquired cardiac disease in old dogs. Over one in three dogs age 10 years and older will suffer from mitral valve deficiency. The exact cause for mitral valve disease is not known. In some breeds there is very strong evidence that it is genetic.


The major symptom is a murmur. In cases of mild heart murmur, the dog will normally display no symptoms at all, except for the sounds that the vet can hear when listening to the heart. If mitral valve disease progresses, the symptoms can include more audible murmurs, weakness, intolerance of exercise, and an increased respiratory rate. Eventually, fluid can start accumulating in the lung of the dog, leading to difficulty breathing and coughing.


There is currently no cure for degenerative value disease in dogs. The option of replacing the degenerate valve is available but is very expensive and requires the dog to be healthy enough to undergo surgery.

The usual treatment option is to manage the heart failure. This is done by using medications that help improve heart function. These include diuretics, which help remove excess water from the body, digitalis, which strengthens the contractions of the heart, and vasodilators, which make it easier for blood to flow throughout the body.

In addition to these a diet low in sodium may be prescribed by your veterinarian. The goal of treatment is to improve the dog's quality and length of life.

Cost to Treat: $8,000 to $15,000

List of Heart Conditions in Dogs

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