Mitral Valve Disease in Cocker Spaniels

Understanding, Managing, and Caring for Your Beloved Companion Volunteer Staff

2/21/20243 min read

a dog with wet fur is looking at the camera
a dog with wet fur is looking at the camera


Mitral valve disease (MVD) is a prevalent heart condition that affects many dog breeds, including Cocker Spaniels. While MVD is a progressive condition that can pose significant health challenges for affected dogs, early detection, proper management, and attentive care can help improve their quality of life and longevity. In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of mitral valve disease in Cocker Spaniels, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and ways to support your furry friend's heart health:

Understanding Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral valve disease is a condition characterized by degeneration of the mitral valve, a critical component of the heart's structure. In dogs with MVD, the mitral valve becomes thickened, distorted, or weakened over time, leading to leakage of blood back into the left atrium of the heart. This regurgitation of blood can eventually lead to congestive heart failure and other complications if left untreated.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of mitral valve disease in Cocker Spaniels is not fully understood, but genetics are believed to play a significant role. Certain lines of Cocker Spaniels may be predisposed to developing MVD, and the condition tends to occur more frequently as dogs age. Other factors, such as diet, obesity, and underlying health conditions, may also influence the development and progression of MVD.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease

The symptoms of mitral valve disease in Cocker Spaniels can vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition. Early signs may be subtle and easily overlooked but can progress over time. Common symptoms of MVD may include:

  • Coughing, especially at night or after exercise

  • Labored or rapid breathing

  • Reduced tolerance for exercise or activity

  • Weakness or lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Fainting or collapse (in severe cases)

If you notice any of these symptoms in your Cocker Spaniel, it's crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosing MVD in Cocker Spaniels typically involves a combination of diagnostic tests, including auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethoscope), chest X-rays, echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), and blood tests to evaluate heart function and assess for signs of heart failure. Once diagnosed, treatment options for MVD may include:

  1. Medications: Medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and pimobendan may be prescribed to manage symptoms, improve heart function, and slow the progression of MVD.

  1. Dietary Management: A balanced and nutritious diet formulated to support heart health may be recommended for dogs with MVD. Your veterinarian may recommend a diet low in sodium and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients beneficial for heart function.

  1. Regular Monitoring: Dogs with MVD require regular veterinary check-ups to monitor their heart health and assess for changes in symptoms or disease progression. Your veterinarian may recommend periodic echocardiograms or other diagnostic tests to evaluate heart function and adjust treatment as needed.

Lifestyle Modifications and Supportive Care

In addition to medical treatment, there are several lifestyle modifications and supportive care measures that can help support your Cocker Spaniel's heart health and overall well-being:

  • Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet to reduce the workload on the heart.

  • Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, stress, and strenuous activity that may exacerbate symptoms or strain the heart.

  • Provide a comfortable and stress-free environment for your dog, with plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation.

  • Minimize exposure to respiratory irritants such as cigarette smoke, dust, and pollen, which can exacerbate coughing and respiratory symptoms.


Mitral valve disease is a common and potentially serious heart condition that can affect Cocker Spaniels, but with early detection, proper management, and attentive care, affected dogs can enjoy a good quality of life for many years. If you suspect your Cocker Spaniel may be experiencing symptoms of MVD, don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. By working together with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, you can help support your furry friend's heart health and ensure they continue to bring joy and companionship to your life for years to come.