Doing everything you can to keep your Cavalier’s heart healthy is of the utmost importance. The leading cause of death among Cavaliers is mitral valve disease, so keeping your Cavalier’s heart healthy is important to his or her overall health and longevity.
Heart Healthy for Longer Life
Our Cavaliers have big hearts. Unfortunately, while those hearts may be power houses of love and devotion, they’re not so strong when it comes to their bodies. It’s important we do everything we can to keep their hearts as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
What is Mitral Valve Disease
Mitral valve disease, also known as cardiac valve disease and endocardiosis, is a degenerative condition that affects nearly all Cavaliers. The mitral valve closes to form a tight seal when the heart contracts to push blood out. With mitral valve disease, the valve thickens and deforms over time, resulting in an inability to form a tight seal. This causes some of the blood in the heart to flow in the opposite direction as it pumps, forcing the heart to work harder. Over time, this weakens the heart and eventually leads to congestive heart failure.
How Can You Prevent Mitral Valve Disease
You can’t. It’s a genetic condition which is unpreventable. Responsible breeders will only breed dogs with the healthiest hearts and that is why they wait until their dogs are a few years old before breeding. But that still means an ongoing focus on heart health is so important for our Cavaliers. They are especially prone to the disease. In fact, almost all Cavaliers have some level of mitral valve disease but for Cavaliers like Davinia and Indiana that came from Responsible Breeders they are able to live healthy long lives! It can’t be prevented, a heart healthy focus helps keep the heart muscle stronger longer.
Focusing on Heart Healthy Habits
Although there’s no getting around mitral valve disease with our Cavaliers, there are some heart healthy things we can do to help our furry friends be healthier longer.
A proper diet is important for heart health. A quality, well-balanced diet contains all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients our Cavaliers need, and the proper amount helps maintain a healthy weight.
Speaking of healthy weight, a svelte Cavalier is a heart healthy Cavalier. Any overweight dog has a taxed heart. The more overweight the dog, the more his heart has to work. This is not conducive to a healthy heart. Always keep your Cavalier at its proper weight. No matter this breed of dog this is important but it makes me so sad when I see Cavaliers that are not at an ideal weight.
Regular exercise is key to a heart healthy lifestyle for us and for our Cavaliers. Exercise provides aerobic activity which strengthens the heart and blood vessels, and it helps keep our dogs at their ideal weights.
Routine Veterinary Exams
A key part of a heart healthy lifestyle for our Cavaliers is routine exams. This is when your vet will listen to your Cavalier’s heart in an effort to detect any sort of murmur. A routine checkup is the only way to detect the only sign of mitral valve disease – a mitral heart murmur. Almost all Cavaliers will have this eventually, so it pays to be vigilant with exams. If your Veterinarian hears anything they will probably call in another doctor in the practice to listen. If they determine that your Cavalier is having an issue they will recommend an EKG.
Good Oral Health
In any dog breed, chronic oral infections have been shown to correlate with mitral valve disease. For a breed like the Cavalier which is almost guaranteed to suffer from the degenerative condition, oral health is an absolute must. Always keep your Cavalier’s mouth in order, so you can keep his heart in order. I’ve written an article with tips on keeping your Cavalier’s mouth healthy. Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Cavalier
Heart Healthy Now for a Longer Life Later
Unfortunately, mitral valve disease is an almost certainty among Cavaliers. Fortunately, we can help strengthen their hearts to slow the progression of this degenerative disease. If you follow a heart healthy lifestyle, you can strengthen your Cavalier’s heart and circulatory system and hopefully slow the onset of mitral valve disease. It is possible and obtainable. Davinia is 11 years old and Indiana is almost 10. They enjoy “hunting” in the yard and walking in the mountains when they visit their grandma and grandpa. They keep up with everyone on their walks and are still smiling when they get back inside and to the water bowl.