The valves linking the heart chambers and large body vessels may degenerate. Due to degeneration they may function improperly, and fail to open or close normally.
In most cases, valvular disease progresses slowly over time, but in particular cases, i.e. after a bacterial infection, it can also develop quickly, or what is known as acutely. Once compromised, weakened valves cause insufficient blood flow to the organs and increased blood pressure inside the pulmonary circuit. As a result, fluid begins to build inside the lung and impair oxygen intake. Symptoms of valvular disease are often similar to those of chronic respiratory conditions. Affected dogs suffer from bouts of coughing, wretching and bringing up flem, which is most obvious after exercise. Some animals dispay their physical distress in the form increased sleeping and resting periods, or they may tire prematurely when being taken on walks or runs.
Predisposition for valvular disease is often inherited. Some breeds like Cavalier King Charles, Schnauzer or Yorkshire Terrier are more commonly affected.
Valvular disease is often first diagnosed by auscultation of the heart. Altered valves produce a distinctive sound pattern – also referred to as a heart murmur. X-rays of the heart can reveal distinctive changes in the shape and size of the organ, which are characteristic of this condition. If symptoms are present, medication is necessary to support heart function and circulation. Administration of diuretics helps by removing fluid from the lungs. Often, treatment has to be carried on for the remainder of the animal's life.
If you have noticed one or more of the above mentioned symptoms in your dog, consult a veterinary clinic.