Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

March 18, 2021
dog, cavalier king charles spaniel, ava
dog, cavalier king charles spaniel, ava

Ava a few years ago


Most readers would know that I have a ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named ‘Ava’ who I love and adore.  She turned 8 last September (2020) so at the time of writing this she is nearly 8 1/2 years of age.  We got her as a nine-week-old puppy at a time when the joy of a puppy was much needed.  Colby, our black and tan Cavalier had passed away in 2011 at the age of 12 and Chelsea, our tri-colour Cavalier (11 years of age at the time) was depressed.  She and Colby had grown up together and she’d never been an only dog before.  I also had left my corporate career and was a bit of a sad and lost soul at the time.  So the timing for a new puppy was perfect!

chelsea, cavalier king charles spaniels, dogs

L to R: Chelsea & Colby

I remember the day we collected Ava from the airport.  She came to us from a friend of mine in Sydney who occasionally bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and is a particular lover of the rubies.  I had long admired all her beautiful ruby cavs and was thrilled to finally be getting one of my own for the family to love.  It was such a big trip for a little puppy so we were very relieved to finally get our hands on her and to let her breeder know that she was safe and sound with us.  We’d seen photo’s and were already in love with her but to finally have her with us was such a joy.

8 week old Ava

Chelsea came alive again once we had Ava.  She was like a puppy again at times, springing around, a new found interest in toys at times too!  She ended up living until she was over 16 years of age, and that was because of Ava.

Chelsea, Dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Puppy Ava with Chelsea (I was into white vignettes back then – certainly not now!)

Ava has had a few health issues of late – some bladder stones, yeast infection in her ears, but the news we never wanted to hear we heard just a few weeks ago.  On one of the check up visits for her ears, the vet could hear a heart murmur.  Ava has Mitral Valve Disease (MVD).  It’s sadly the most leading cause of death in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (and can be found in other breeds of dogs as well).  This is what Colby died from.  Chelsea was one of those very rare Cavaliers that never got it and she lived till she was over 16 years of age.  Ava is at the moderate stage of disease – what they class as 4 out of 6.  


Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) Explained 

In a nutshell … the heart has four valves that keep the blood flowing in the correct direction. Each valve has flaps that open and close once during each heartbeat.

The mitral valve directs the blood flow from the heart’s left atrium to the left ventricle.

Mitral regurgitation “leaky valve” is a condition in which the mitral valve does not close completely, letting blood leak backward.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is also sometimes referred to as Myxomatous Mitral Valve Degeneration (MMVD).

Here’s where you can read more about MVD in dogs.

The image below shows the stages of the disease.  Ava would be at Stage B1 – a heart murmur has been detected but there is no heart enlargement or evidence of cardiac failure as yet.

Mitral Valve Disease



Colby was diagnosed with MVD at the age of 9 and he lived until he was 12.  He was on Vetmedin which gave him longer than he would otherwise have had.  Ava might see 10 or 11 – we will have to wait and see.  At this stage of her disease it’s too early for medication (Vetmedin).  Once the disease reaches the stage of heart enlargement (Stage B2 as per the above image), the Vetmedin will commence and be of benefit.  By the way, Pimobendan and Vetmedin are the same thing.  Vetmedin is the brand name.

All my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have been purchased from reputable breeders.  All of them had heart cleared parents (from a veterinary cardiologist) at the time of breeding.  Good breeders are doing all they can to try and breed this disease out of the breed but it is not proving to be an easy thing to achieve.


Ava’s been to see a Veterinary Cardiologist who has said she has some life left in the ticker yet!  He agrees it’s 4/6 level moderate disease (which would be Stage B1 in the image above) and all we can do right now is try and keep her at optimum health for what is to come.  We go back to see the Cardiologist in 9 months time for a recheck.

Ava has a tendency to easily become overweight and she is a bit overweight at present.  She adores food and inhales just about anything!  It is extremely difficult to get weight off her.  She’s on a prescription diet for her bladder stones which will help but it’s still a battle.  We can’t rely on exercise to get the weight off her as with her heart condition she gets very ‘huffy puffy’ quickly and takes a long time to recover.  We also have been told that we can’t let her get overheated. 

I’ll discuss her diet further with her vets but at the moment we’re reducing her dried food even more and splitting it into two meals per day and bulking it up a little with some low cal veggies.  The addition of veggies is for two reasons:  1)  To add a bit of taste and flavour and interest to her meals, and 2) to help her to be full enough to sleep through the night and not wake us up begging for food (it has happened!).

The Cardiologist indicated she might see 10 or 11.  I can’t bare thinking about it much.  We will cross each bridge as we get to it.  It’s not only going to be a distressing road ahead but also a very expensive one.  Normal vet visits are expensive but throw in ultrasounds, visits to Veterinary Cardiologists and all the tests done there, plus the cost of Vetmedin (it is expensive) then there is quite a lot of expensive ahead of us.  There is absolutely no hesitation though because Ava is a very much loved family member and we will do all we can do to look after her and keep her comfortable and well as long as possible.

Sadly, as much as I love Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I will never get another one as I can’t bare to go through this again.  Twice is too much already.  I’ve had to farewell many dogs over my lifetime now (a couple from my childhood and three from adulthood) so I know the grief ahead.  I also know that I’ll get through it and be ok again.

In the meantime, I will enjoy every moment I get with Ava.  She seems quite well and happy at this stage and I’ll see to it that she’s “lovin’ life” for every bit of it she has left!

Had you heard of MVD before?  I thought it was important to talk about it to raise awareness.  Pet ownership is something we need to go into with our eyes open.  Always research the breed/s you intend to purchase or adopt for possible genetic or inherited diseases or other health issues and ask the right questions.

Ciao for now

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  • Reply Natalie March 18, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Hi Min, Ava is adorable. I know you’d enjoy your time with her to the fullest. I haven’t heard of MVD before so thank you for the explanation. #lovin’life

    • Reply Min March 18, 2021 at 11:36 am

      Thanks Natalie! I think she’s adorable too. I wish MVD wasn’t a thing but felt I should spread awareness, particularly for prospective new pet owners.

  • Reply Anne March 18, 2021 at 9:06 am

    We are looking at getting a dog when we return from travelling. I thought this might be a good breed for us but this disease is a bit concerning. Enjoy Ava!

    • Reply Min March 18, 2021 at 11:42 am

      The CKCS is the most beautiful breed of dog. They’re smart, placid, gentle, loving, loyal and gorgeous to look at. I don’t want to turn people off them – just to let people know that MVD is something that can be a problem with them and to be aware of it. When purchasing a CKCS always ask breeders if they follow MVD breeding protocol and don’t ever buy from unregistered breeders or via a pet shop etc. I hope you have a fantastic time on your Aussie road trip!

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee March 18, 2021 at 9:43 am

    As long as she’s not in pain, think of the lovely life you are giving her. That’s all you can do. Dogs steal our hearts in a big way.

    • Reply Min March 18, 2021 at 11:43 am

      She’s not in any pain. She’s happy and doing pretty ok at the moment. She’s had and is having a great life. Lots of love and companionship – just what a cavvy loves! 🙂

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