Dating back to the 18th century originally, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was revived by American Roswell Eldridge in the early 1920s and is now one of the most popular breeds of toy dog around. The Cavalier King Charles sports a coat in one of four colours; chestnut and white (known as Blenheim), Tricolour, Black & Tan and Ruby. Friendly household dogs, the Cavalier King Charles still retains the working dog spirit of its Spaniel ancestors and will happily barrel around the countryside! If you own a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or are thinking of getting one, then you should be aware of MVD, a condition that affects them in particular.
What is MVD?
Mitral Valve Disease, or MVD for short, is an issue that affects the heart. The mitral valve is the valve that keeps the blood flowing back into the left ventricle from the left atrium. MVD occurs when the valve weakens over time, from the extreme pressure of pumping the blood out of the heart and into the body, and leaks back into the atrium. This will be a gradual decrease in the efficiency of the dog’s heart and, eventually, congestive heart failure.
How does this affect my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?
Heart disease is one of the top five causes of death in dogs in this country. Heart failure caused by Mitral Valve Disease is very common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. In fact, MVD is twenty times more prevalent than in other breeds of dog. One indicator of potential problems is the development of a heart murmur. Previously, vets have adopted a ‘watch and wait’ strategy and medication was not prescribed until patients developed signs of heart failure, as there was no evidence to support early medical treatment. However, this is all about to change.
The EPIC study
One of the largest veterinary cardiology studies ever conducted, the worldwide EPIC study concluded with veterinary researchers finding that dogs with an increase in heart chamber size, secondary to mitral valve disease, benefit from being treated early with a drug called Pimobendan. The study found that the medication can delay signs of congestive heart failure, on average by 15 months, and dogs live significantly longer when treated with the drug. So much so that the study was finished early, as it was deemed unethical to withhold treatment from the placebo group.
Following the study, vets are now advising that dogs diagnosed with a grade 3 heart murmur and above should be investigated for possible heart chamber enlargement. Coughing, weakness or an indifference to exercise could be an indicator that your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering from heart issues. If this does happen and persists then you should contact your vet without delay.
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