We are grateful to Minna Hagan, ECDA Secretary, for translating this article from a Finnish Dachshund magazine.
Endocardiosis i.e. Valvular Heart Disease, is the most common disease in middle aged and older dachshunds and it is approx. twice as common in dogs as in bitches.
Normally you will start hearing heart murmurs between 7-10 years of age. Approximately a third of over 10 year old dogs will show symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease. Endocardiosis is also diagnosed occasionally in younger dogs.
Sometimes it is thought that due to the fact that Dachshunds are a Chondrodystrophic breed, that the degenerative heart disease is more common at an earlier age. More commonly the disease manifests itself in the mitral valves of the left side of the heart. Due to the degeneration, the mitral valve thickens and as it is not working correctly it causes “leakage” also knows as “backflow” which in the long run will cause congestive heart failure. The “backflow" will cause the left ventricle to expand, the venous pressure in the lungs will increase which will cause fluid build-up in the lungs. The enlarged heart can put pressure on the windpipe as well as on the bronchi.
Normally Endocardiosis is found during the annual vaccination visit to the vet. The murmur can be heard years before any symptoms appear. Some of the symptoms are: dry cough, especially at night; restlessness, especially at night time; excessive panting and reduced stress tolerance, and later on breathing difficulties. Later symptoms if not treated can include bloating, arrhythmia and fainting.
Heart murmurs can be classed either based only on the volume of the murmur or both the volume and symptoms. Endocardiosis and its progress can be diagnosed by ultrasound, where e.g. the thickness of mitral valves is measured, the blood flow out of the heart as well as the thickness of the walls of the heart. By x-raying the chest you get a picture of the size of the heart as well as to find out if there is fluid build-up in the lungs. Sometimes an ECG is used to find out what changes have happened.
In its early stages Endocardiosis is symptomless and normally it is only treated when the first symptoms appear. The medication will only slow down the disease and with the correct treatment it is possible to extend the dog’s life by years.
In order to control the progress of Endocardiosis the key is diet: low sodium diet, which helps reduce blood pressure, as well as Omega 3 based products which help to protect the heart muscle. Moderate exercise, according to how the dog is feeling and avoid excessive exercise during warm weather. Being overweight does not help and dental hygiene is very important as keeping teeth clean will stop any additional bacteria being carried into the heart by the blood flow. At its early stages mild sedation e.g. in order to clean teeth is fine.
Early diagnosis, treatment and follow-up are the key . For example, during hot weather more medication might be required than when it is cooler.
Very rarely does Endocardiosis cause a “cardiac arrest” in dogs, normally the condition worsens slowly over time.
Heart Murmur data from DachsLife 2015
We specifically asked people to report on Heart Murmurs as a separate condition as this was the most common heart condition reported in 2012. Overall, 3.6% of dogs were reported as having some form of Heart Murmurs and their average age was 8.3.
Once again, Wires are reported with the highest prevalence (7.8% vs. 5.2% in 2012), but this time significantly more Smooths have been reported (6.3% vs. 2.9% in 2012). The average age of Wires with Murmurs was 9.4 and Smooths was 9.5.
Read our DachsLife 2015 Report