Degenerative valve disease is a condition that can affect certain breeds of dogs, including English bulldogs. Staying informed of the symptoms, causes, treatment and prognosis will help you determine what to do in the unfortunate event that your English bulldog develops this condition.
Degenerative Valve Disease
Degenerative valve disease is a heart condition that develops as a result of thickening within the mitral valve of the heart. The thickening causes accumulation of blood within the heart, which leads to increased pressure in the heart. It is breed- and age-specific. The English bulldog breed is at risk of several heart conditions, including mitral valve defects and other conditions that prevent the heart valves from opening properly.
Signs and Symptoms
In the early stages, English bulldogs may not experience visible symptoms. In later stages, they can suffer from weight loss, fainting, increasingly difficult breathing or increased coughing. Unfortunately, because heavy or labored breathing is common in English bulldogs, it can be challenging to distinguish normal breathing from that associated with degenerative valve disease. Because of this, along with the fact that mitral valve disease is common in bulldogs, it's best to visit your vet for regular checkups.
A vet can detect a heart murmur even in early stages without your bulldog experiencing symptoms. To help detect a problem, the vet will listen for respiratory symptoms like wheezing and lung crackling. In addition, she might conduct an echocardiogram, a type of ultrasound, of the heart. This can help reveal thickening, enlargement or irregularity in the shape of the heart's valves. This noninvasive procedure entails attaching sticky patches to your pup's body and reading the electrical currents within his heart.
Prevention, Treatment and Prognosis
Although several clinical trials were in the works in 2013, no prevention protocol for degenerative valve disease for English bulldogs exists. Treatment generally focuses on combating congestive heart failure, which is often the long-term end result of the disease and the heart conditions that potentially plague the bulldog breed. A vet might prescribe drugs including diuretics, enzyme inhibitors or others, along with periodic removal of fluid within your English bulldog's heart. Survival rates vary, and can average about a year with therapy.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.