Is Your Dog at Risk of Valvular Degeneration? Learn more about Symptoms and causes of Valvular Degeneration in Dogs

Is Your Dog at Risk of Valvular Degeneration?

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Find out how to detect valvular degeneration in dogs and what measures you can take to treat this heart ailment affecting mostly smaller breeds.

Heart disease is the world's leading cause of death in dogs under 10 years old and affects more than one-third of all breeds. As many as 75% of small breeds in the USA are affected by Chronic Valvular Degeneration.

A dog's heart has four valves that control blood flow. Valvular degeneration is a condition where these valves become damaged or weakened. This condition causes the narrowing of the valves that connect your pet's ventricles, which are the lower chambers of the heart.

This damage can be caused by your dog's genetics, diet, or lifestyle choices, such as exercise level.

While this isn't always fatal, it can certainly lead to complications that may require medical intervention and surgery.

Detecting Valvular Degeneration

A dog with valvular heart disease will often display loss of appetite, tiredness, swollen abdomen, coughing, or difficulty in breathing.

Other potential symptoms include excessive panting, weakness or lack of energy, and weight loss.

A physical exam, along with Chest X-rays and blood tests, will help your veterinarian determine if your dog is showing any of the signs of valvular disease.

Risk Factors for Valvular Degeneration

These categories of dogs are more prone to this disease.


Small dogs who generally live longer get diagnosed with Valvular Degeneration at the ages of 9 years and above. However, the symptoms start manifesting at four years of age on average. 


Smaller dog breeds have a genetic predisposition for developing a valvular disease, including Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Boxers. 


A high-fat diet increases blood cholesterol levels which puts pressure on the valves in the heart and can lead to valve damage over time. 

Excessive exercise also puts stress on your pup’s body by increasing his heart rate and putting strain on his cardiovascular system.

Treatment for Valvular Degeneration

If you suspect your dog has valvular degeneration, do not despair. A treatment regimen relying on diet and medication exists.


Avoid high-sodium diets and meats that contain salt preservatives. High blood pressure is one of the main causes of Valvular Degeneration in dogs, so providing a low-fat diet, with less sodium content, for your dog is the first step. 

You may order pet supplies and pet meds online due to the variety of choices available. However, read the product literature of all the products in the dog food section thoroughly to ascertain the nutritional value. 

You can go for any reliable brands like Royal Canin or Purina for dogs, for example. Some brands offer foods targeted at smaller dogs. Check with your vet for your dog’s condition before changing the food.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of fresh water each day to prevent dehydration from an increased workload on their heart. Limit their exercise too. Opt for short walks of less than thirty minutes duration.


Your vets will prescribe pet medications for heart health and blood pressure that can slow the progression of VD but not stop it completely. 

Oral medications like Diuretics, Pimobendan, and ACE inhibitors are usually prescribed, as per Pet MD. Vetmedin for dogs is a commonly prescribed medication containing Pimobendan. Ventriscience is another supplement that helps in building cardio strength in dogs and cats. 

These medications may cause side effects such as liver damage or blood clotting disorders and should be used with caution. Your vet will monitor your dog during treatment for signs of these problems and adjust the dosage accordingly.


If medication fails, surgery may extend your dog's lifespan by at least three years. 

The good news is that most dogs who have this surgery do not experience complications afterward, although some will have mild lameness due to arthritis.

To summarise, Valvular Degeneration is a common ailment for smaller dogs, especially toy breeds. Vets recommend a healthy, low-sodium diet and prescribe medications for lowering blood pressure and improving heart health in dogs. We hope following these guidelines helps in the early detection and management of VD in your dog.

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