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Dear Daisy Dog

My 10-year-old toy poodle, Tippi, has a heart murmur. Her veterinarian thinks it’s due to chronic valve disease and recommends cardiac ultrasound with a cardiologist. What can you tell me about this disease?

Daisy Responds

As some of us dogs age, the valves between the heart’s chambers thicken, develop nodules and eventually fail to close completely.

Then, each time the heart beats, blood leaks back into the previous chamber, creating a “swish” the veterinarian calls a heart murmur.

Your veterinarian’s suspicion of chronic valve disease can be confirmed by an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, which will reveal any thickened, leaky heart valves.

Chronic valve disease, or endocardiosis, accounts for 75 percent of the heart disease found in us dogs.

It is most common in older, small-breed dogs, such as miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, dachshunds and terriers.

Chronic valve disease is especially common in Cavalier King Charles spaniels, where it can develop early in life and progress rapidly.

Clinical signs include cough, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, or decreased energy, especially with exercise. Some dogs lose weight because of depressed appetite.

Medications can minimize these problems and prolong life.
In addition to giving Tippi medication and keeping her slim, you should prevent her from developing periodontal disease.

acteria from red, swollen gums can travel through the blood to infect her already damaged heart valves, further impairing their function.

With good veterinary care, though, Tippi should do well.

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