ASK THE VET
Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is only seven years old, but she has gone into heart failure with a leaky valve, I think the vet said a mitral valve?
I know people can get this valve replaced. Is there anywhere I can get her valve fixed? Sally, Belfast
Sorry to hear that Sally, but please don’t despair. Veterinary medicine has advanced hugely over the last number of years and treatment of congestive heart failure has been revolutionised with new drugs such as pimobendan, and new applications of old drugs such as spironolactone.
Sadly, however, all attempts to date to replace valves have failed. We are struggling to stop rejection of the implanted valves, although a handful of dogs have survived a few months after the surgery, so it is currently not a recommended procedure.
The good news though is that using the newer medications, it is my experience that dogs live a far better quality of life than they were able to with older therapies. The most recent trial data also suggests that they live a lot longer too.
So do keep in regular contact with your vet. There is no substitute for careful professional ongoing fine-tuning of therapy in these cases to maximise lifespan and quality of life.
I know it isn’t of immediate interest to you, but to others who own small-breed dogs prone to valve leaks, there is new evidence that we can put off heart failure by up to two years.
We now advocate getting hearts checked every year — if a murmur develops and the heart starts to enlarge, we can prescribe drugs to lengthen disease-free life. How amazing!
I am so pleased to be working in a profession which is seeing such advances in care for those we hold dear.
I wish you well with your wee dog and am sure your vet can help dramatically, and improve her quality of life. Good luck.
Craig is a partner in Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic, Bangor (cedarmountvets.co.uk). Send your pet queries to email@example.com. Craig can only respond to questions through this column, and these answers cannot substitute for treatment decisions based on a full history and clinical examination by your vet.