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The heart is divided into four chambers; there are two atria (upper chambers of the heart) and two lower chambers known as ventricles. Each chamber of the heart has a valve which allow blood to flow one way only to prevent blood from flowing backwards. The valve which is between the left atrium and left ventricle is the mitral valve. When a dog has mitral valve disease the mitral valve essentially “wears out” and leaks.
Mitral valve disease is responsible for ¾ of all canine heart diseases. The main warning sign early in mitral valve disease may be as simple as a heart murmur. Mitral valve disease is also known as endocardiosis and chronic valvular disease.
Dog Breeds at High Risk for Developing Mitral Valve Disease
Mitral valve disease is thought to be genetic and is mainly found in the following breeds:
The earliest symptom of mitral valve disease is often a heart murmur. As the disease progresses symptoms including coughing, intolerance of exercise, fainting and rapid breathing become more common.
Mitral valve disease is caused by genetics. The best way to prevent mitral valve disease is to limit prevent the breeding of dogs who experience problems with this disease.
A heart valve which is not functioning properly is often easily treated in humans; however, in dogs this is more difficult and not generally feasible. Treatment generally includes medication to reduce the amount of stress on the heart. Other medications may be given to control blood pressure and fluid retention.
Amber L. Drake, a Professional Canine Behaviorist and Adjunct Professor of Biological Science, has extensive experience in the Animal Science Field. She has worked with dogs professionally for over ten years. Her clients range from private pet parents to large canine rescue organizations. In addition to accepting clients on a regular basis, Drake serves as an Adjunct Professor at Jamestown Community College and Kaplan University. Drake has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), Educational Specialist Post-Masters, Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework at Cornell University for Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Biochemistry at UC Berkeley, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and a number of Continuing Education courses to remain up-to-date in her field.