SLU news

New cardiovascular medication - promising news for cardiovascular research and heart patients worldwide

Published: 24 August 2016

A large study including dogs with leaking heart valves shows that it is possible to significantly extend the dog's symptom-free period if treated with pimobendan. One of the researchers in the study, Professor Jens Häggström at SLU, comments on the results.

- This is the greatest discovery in veterinary cardiovascular research over the last 30 years, perhaps ever, in the treatment area. The preliminary results we present will change the way veterinarians actually treat the most common heart disease in dogs worldwide.

Many dogs older than ten years of age have developed leaking heart valves, i.e. myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD). Over time, the valvular leakage increase and the heart becomes enlarged, and eventually, pulmonary edema and respiratory problems might develop. The dog begins to show signs of disease only when the valve leakage and cardiac enlargement (cardiomegaly) become severe, but most dogs have the disease for a long time (several years) before this occurs.  This period is often referred to as the preclinical period. Despite medical treatment, the dog often becomes euthanised or dies spontaneously within one to two years from the first signs of disease.

The study was an international, multi-center clinical study ran by specialized veterinary cardiologists at 36 trial centers. 360 canine patients enrolled in the trial were randomly allocated to either a pimobendan or a placebo treatment group. Pimobendan turned out to delay the onset of clinical signs of congestive heart failure in dogs with increased heart size secondary to preclinical MMVD.

- This study shows that many dogs will have the opportunity of a prolonged asymptomatic period and extended life, if treated, Jens Häggström says.

The dogs that were included in the study, suffered from valvular leakage because of MMVD, and cardiomegaly, but had yet to develop fluid in the lungs and signs of disease. To suspect more extensive valvular leakage is simple, as a clear murmur is heard when the heart is examined with a stethoscope, but the severity of valve leakage needs to be quantified by diagnostic imaging tests, as dogs with mild leakage do not need medication.  Taking the habit of letting the dog undergo a simple medical examination every year can thus give the dog a significantly longer life.


Jens Häggström, Professor
Department of Clinical Sciences, SLU                                , 018-672124

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