View Full Version : 15 month old Cavalier with heart murmur :-(

18th August 2010, 01:57 AM

I am new to this forum and I just wanted to join and come here for a little support, because I am a bit distraught about some news regarding my Cav. I have a ruby who is just over 15 months old (my first Cav, though I did tons of research on the breed before getting one), and I didn't think it was possible to love a dog this much. He is the most energetic, sweet, loving, smart, loyal, and absolutely adorable and cuddly dog I have ever met. I have always been a "big dog" person (labs, golden retrievers...) until I discovered Cavaliers... big dog spirit and pluck in a little dog body! And the most snuggly-cute little guy I have ever met. We just can't believe we discovered and adopted such a wonderful animal (my husband and I have had dogs before, and we both agree he is just a dream come true as far as ease of care and all he gives us back in joy. We are pretty hooked on Cavs and seriously don't think it's just our parental bias. Everyone that meets him raves about the little guy and we couldn't imagine constructing a more perfect dog!)

We both knew that all Cav's pretty much die of MVD, and we have read tons about the disease. When the vet has listened to his heart in the past, we always held our breaths for a moment. But I knew 50% make it all the way to age 5 without even a grade 1 murmur, so even though I knew that this risk was there with a Cav and it was inevitable that we'd get the news of his first murmur at SOME point in his life, I was naively optimistic that we wouldn't end up in the WORST case scenario of earliest onset MVD and I wouldn't have to start worrying about it for at least another 4-5 years. Our pup just seemed too perfect for that to happen.

Anyway... He just went to the vet 1 month ago because someone in our complex had a flea problem and the fleas got on him outside before the complex sprayed... and he has an allergy so he had a bad reaction (poor little guy). At that visit, the vet said his heart sounded great. Recently I had noticed he was scratching at his ears still (but not so much the rest of his body), so we took him back to the vet yesterday suspecting an ear infection. Sure enough, he has an ear infection. The vet prescribed some ear washes and said if he is prone to allergies, that will make him more susceptible to ear infections, so we have to be good about doing the ear wash once a week.

Anyway, we saw a different vet this time than a month ago. He listened to his heart as a standard part of the checkup. His face got slightly serious. He turned around and looked at his chart and said "how old is he?" As soon as he asked that, both my husband and I knew instantly then he'd heard a murmur. We said "15 months - why?" He said "well... he has a murmur. Did you know that?" And we said "no, we didn't." We told him we had been in 1 month ago and the other vet hadn't heard anything. He said "well, it is very very slight. I would definitely call it a grade 1. But I heard it... it's there." I know that many Cavs have grade 1's for a while that the owners never even know about until they progress later in life because vets very frequently do not catch a grade 1 or aren't trained well enough to hear them. Our vet office is not a small practice - it is actually an animal hospital with 7 different vets and lots of equipment onsite (echo machines, mri machines, etc.) They can do MRIs there and two vets are trained to run the echo machine... and as part of the price of the tests they have specialists in another city they send the results to for their feedback/consultation. So as far as a general practitioner situation goes, they are pretty good. This vet was one of the two at the hospital who did the echocardiograms, so our guess is that he's probably good on the heart front. We were actually impressed he caught a grade 1 himself. He said "do you know about the problems with these guys?" And we said "yes, have read lots about it." He said murmurs were funny things, you just never could tell... some dogs had a grade 1 for years before it progressed. Others seemed to get fast progression of the disease. Sometimes they were more intermittent at the lower grades.... (he said that in response to my question about the vet not hearing it a month ago, I guess because he didn't want me to think he was necessarily saying the last vet just must have missed it. Maybe when the last vet listened, it wasn't murmuring!) He said he'd also once treated a poodle running around like a puppy at a grade 6, and he had no idea how it was physically possible. So, you just didn't know with murmurs. Depends on the dog.

He said the standard recommendation was to come back in 6 months. At that point, we'd see if it had progressed. Then we could see if he had recommendations as far as paying for the echo (the only way to precisely track progression of the disease - he said vets assigning grades was all a subjective process). I asked him about seeing a cardiologist directly. He said he would be happy to give us a referral at any time if we wanted to see one. But it didn't sound like it was his standard recommendation right after hearing a slight grade 1 for the first time, before doing the follow-up in six months to see where things stood. I guess he didn't think it was urgent enough yet to encourage us to immediately spend big bucks (which I guess I do appreciate).

I am very depressed and distraught today, and I feel like this was a dream. :-( I know this is a chance with all Cavs to have it happen early, and I know some dogs can have a grade 1 for years and not progress and others it happens fast, so there is no reason to freak out today until there is something to freak out about. But I also know that in general, the stats show that the earlier a Cav gets its first murmur, the earlier MVD usually progresses to life threatening. While I was prepared to have this happen, I really was NOT prepared to actually have to start panicking about MVD progression at 15 months! We've barely gotten to enjoy his puppy years! He's still a happy little baby! Doesn't that put him in like the bottom 10% of the gene pool?? (from what I've read?) Even though I know it's always a risk (even with well-bred dogs), I just was NOT expecting this. I'm just feeling really shocked and depressed. :-( I cried for a bit on my husband's shoulder last night.

Has anyone else had experience with a Cav who had a vet catch a murmur that young in life? Any recommendations on how to proceed from here? My vet mentioned that clinical trials were going on with ace inhibitors?? He said people had reason to think they would be preventative as far as progression, but results had not yet documented that they had a significant positive effect. But seeing as how they had no negative effects on the dog, some people elected to go ahead and give it to them just in case they helped (I guess it just depends on your philosophy when it comes to medicine - should we give pets any medicine that "could help" even with no documentation of positive effects?) Has anyone read anything about ace inhibitors or does anyone have any experience with this? What about getting referred to a cardiologist asap or just waiting until his 6 month visit to talk about that then? Also, one last question - I have read people refer to heart murmurs differently from MVD, and in all my reading I've always been confused about that. Does our Cav have a "murmur" or MVD? All Cavs will eventually get MVD. He has the early stages of the murmur. It was on his left side. Doesn't that mean he obviously has MVD (just not advanced MVD yet)? What is the difference between saying he has a "murmur" and saying he has MVD? I've just been confused about that in my reading.

Mostly I just wanted a community for some support with this and some feedback about people's experience with Cavs who got their first murmurs early in life. Thanks all for listening. :-( My cav's name is Mr. Darcy. :-) He also has a grade 1 luxating patella that we found out about just a few weeks after we got him... our breeder gave us half our money back when he got that diagnosis. Though it doesn't seem to bother him at all yet and he's the happiest puppy in the world and loves to run and play, we know eventually it could progress and will lead to arthritis. So we've also gone through the stress of knowing someday an expensive surgery could be on the horizon. Now knowing about the heart, I'm freaking out about that a bit. We feel so simultaneously lucky we seem to have gotten the best, happiest, healthiest, most joyful and delightful acting dog in the entire world, but also completely distraught that we got so UNLUCKY as far as major medical news in the first 15 months of the little guy's life! While he has been nothing but the perfect dog, we have gotten these diagnoses that leave us totally scared about the sadness to come in the future. And looking at him, it's so hard to imagine there being a single thing wrong with him. He makes my heart hurt he's so perfect and sweet. :-( Just a confusing bunch of emotions.

At any rate, it's nice to meet you all. Just wanted to share my story and seek some advice/counsel from others who have gone through this.

Kate H
18th August 2010, 12:59 PM
Sorry you're having all this worry, BUT heart murmurs are a bit of a lottery! A Cavalier with a Grade 1 heart murmur at 15 months may never even 'progress' to a Grade 2, or show any symptoms of heart problems. Or they may rapidly go through the grades! You need to have your youngster examined by a cardiologist to confirm the strength of the murmur - the ordinary vet's stethescope isn't sensitive enough to grade a murmur accurately. I don't know where you live, but in the UK the Cavalier Clubs run regular heart clinics where you can get your dog checked at a reasonable price (if the murmur increases dramatically you will need to have a proper full examination by a specialist). I get my two checked every year - Aled, a rescue from a puppy farm, has a Grade 3 murmur at 3 years old, but absolutely no symptoms. Oliver at 9 has a Grade 2, which is probably old age as much as anything! Even if Cavaliers start to show symptoms, the medication has improved enormously and can keep them living a normal life for many years.

All you can really do, apart from keeping an eye on your Cavalier with a regular check-up, is keep him FIT - which means thin. Watch his weight like a hawk and don't overfeed - you should be able to feel his ribs easily and he should have a waistline, and it helps to weigh him regularly (I just drop into the vets every so often and use the scales in the waiting room). Cut out fattening treats - my two enjoy a raw carrot just as much as anything fancier; and give him plenty of exercise. The other thing to be particulary careful of is hot weather - not good for any dog, but it does put strain on the heart; exercise early and late, not in the middle of the day.

Apart from that, relax, enjoy your Cavalier, be watchful but not obsessive, and enjoy all those walks!

Kate, Oliver and Aled

PS I do agree with you about Cavaliers being like gundogs - I had a Goldie as a teenager, and Oliver in particular is just a smaller version!

Love my Cavaliers
18th August 2010, 01:38 PM
My Oz was diagnosed with a Grade 1 heart murmur by my vet and then confirmed by a cardiologist when he was 5 months old. The cardiologist said "Kudos" to the regular vet for even picking it up. He had all the standard testing by the cardiologist (ultrasound, echo, etc) and had to wear a holter monitor for 24 hours because they picked up a second degree A-V heart block also. He was diagnosed at that point with early onset MVD. He sees the cardiologist once a year and is still a grade 1. You would never know it. He is still a pistol. Nothing ever bothers him. He is my crazy man and even though he is the youngest of my four, he has always been the most energetic. I try to keep him slim and I give him 1000 mg pure salmon oil and 30 mg CoQ10 in his food every morning. Don't know if it helps, but I figure it can't hurt.

I would recommend going to a cardiologist. They are the ones trained to diagnose heart problems and they are the best ones to tell you the extent of Mr. Darcy's heart issue's. Why bother waiting the 6 months to go back to your regular vet when you are going to be anxious about it for the entire time (I know I would be)- just go to the experts right away and have the testing done. That way you know what you are dealing with. Good luck to you and enjoy your little guy.

Karen and Ruby
18th August 2010, 06:49 PM
Hi there

It is all very confusing when thinking about MVD and murmors and everything lse that goes with it but dont panic!

If it puts your mind at rest then go to a cardiologist BUT.... I had Ruby as a puppy and at the age of 15-18 months the vet heard the murmor. Grade 1 as you have too.
I went in to a state of panic and booked her in to see a cardiologist and have an ECG.

I got the call to pick her up later in the afternoon and the Cardiologist said that he hadnt done it as it would be a waste of my money!
It just wasn't anything to worry about now.... she is 4 this year and still a grade 1. Sometimes it is in-audible.

Charlie on the other hand is my rescue- he came to me last September with a 'clean' bill of health.
I took him to the Vets and my regular Vet said that he had a grade 3 murmor- at 9 months old!! I was horrified.
At this point having lived with an SM dog for over a year I hadnt even given a thought to MVD. SM was my main concern with him.

So I was shocked and asked for a Cardio referal. My vet agreed and a few weeks later we arrived. The Cardio listened and said to me it isnt a grade 3. More like a 5/6. Well.... shocking!
He did the scan and said that he has Mitral Valve Displasia- a heart defect that he was almost certainly born with.
Nothing that we can do about it but keep him thin (which he is at 6.6kg) and healthy. You wouldnt know anything is wrong and he has so so much energy. Does agility and runs about after his ball all day long. He will be two in December and at the momment we are having 6 monthly ECGs to monitor but so far so good!

I give them both Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin E- who knows if it helps but better to carry on regardless.
I dont know how long Charlie will go on before it progresses BUT he certainly lives life to the full!

Like others have said- it depends on the dog and some wont get any worse and some will lie with a grade 1 for many years and then deteriorate quickly!

Hope you are feeling better today- just dont worry yourself silly!