Heart Disease in Dogs


As our pets have increasingly become members of our family, we have done a much better job of taking care of their health and helping them to live longer lives. But, of course, just like us, that means facing more of the issues that we face as we age as well.  That’s why I’ve teamed up with Boehringer-Ingelheim to raise awareness of an issue that needs more attention.

Heart disease in dogs is surprisingly common. And like so many issues in human care and veterinary care, early intervention matters a lot.

About 10 percent of dogs seen in private practice are diagnosed with some type of heart disease, that’s millions of dogs. Middle-aged to older dogs are far more likely to have this problem, in particular smaller older dogs. In fact, mitral valve disease (one kind of heart disease) is so common in small breed dogs, it affects about 85 percent by the age of 15-years.

Ultimately, mitral valve disease can result in the following steps leading to congestive heart failure.

  • As the mitral valve degenerates, blood leaks backward into the upper left chamber (atrium).
  • To compensate, the heart muscle pumps harder and blood vessels throughout the body constrict to support blood flow, resulting in heart enlargement.
  • As long as the heart can compensate, the dog typically won’t show clinical signs.
  • When the heart can no longer compensate, clinical signs occur.
  • Identifying dogs before the heart reaches this point is critical.

Any dog of any breed can develop heart problems, so routine screening is recommended for all dogs, regardless of breed or mix– though it is true that some breeds are far more predisposed.
Routine screenings are simple and include a veterinarian listening to your dog’s heart. If a murmur is detected, further testing may be recommended to confirm diagnosis and possible treatment recommendations.

Even if a dog shows no symptoms of a heart problem, early screening and monitoring are important, since earlier diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference.

Luckily, there are tools available to veterinarians to help dogs who are diagnosed with mitral valve disease to delay the onset of clinical symptoms.

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), made up of veterinary specialists including veterinary cardiologists, put together a classification chart to help identify each stage of canine mitral valve disease.

For Stage B2 preclinical mitral valve disease, where a dog has an enlarged heart but no outward signs of heart disease like cough or lethargy, ACVIM recommends the use of pimobendan, the active ingredient in VETMEDIN®-CA1 (pimobendan). VETMEDIN-CA1 is the only FDA conditionally approved drug indicated for the delay of congestive heart failure for dogs with this stage of mitral valve disease.

While home diagnosing of heart disease in dogs isn’t possible, there’s an amazing app that records a dog’s resting respiratory rate, and even transfers this information to the vet clinic, called My Pet’s Heart2Heart.

We’re lucky to have dogs in our lives and even more lucky to live in a time of such amazing medical technologies that allow us to help them live the fullest lives possible.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: VETMEDIN-CA1 is conditionally approved by the FDA, and full demonstration of effectiveness, or how well the drug works, is dependent on completion of a clinical trial. The use of conditionally approved new animal drugs is limited to a specific use, which can be found on the package insert. The most common side effects seen in dogs with Stage B2 MMVD while taking VETMEDIN-CA1 Chewable Tablets are cough, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy (lack of energy), and localized pain (such as in the neck or legs). For full prescribing information, click here.

VETMEDIN® is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica GmbH, used under license. ©2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. US-PET-0911-2023