Heart disease is well documented in whippets (KC Survey 2004) but happily not as commonly seen as in some other breeds. The main culprit is mitral valve disease which can be screened for, allowing affected animals and their progeny to be removed from the breeding programme. Testing is currently not frequently used in the UK but is relatively common in the USA where there appears to have been either a wider experience, or wider reporting of heart disease.
Heart health is becoming a talking point among whippet breeders and they are starting to screen their breeding stock either at a specialist practice or at a testing day run by a club. It would be extremely desirable for the practice to become widespread so that a breeding population in good heart can be maintained for the future. See the heart testing page for more details.
Heart Disease is as common in dogs as it is in people. There are many ways in which heart disease can be detected and regular visits to a Veterinary Surgeon will ensure early detection and treatment -this may be the difference between life and death.
Mitral Valve Insufficiency
Atrioventricular valvular insufficiency (AVVI)
Heart failure in older dogs is usually due to problems with the mitral valve of the heart. As the dog ages, the mitral valve between the left atrium and left ventricle starts to fail. The valve is designed to prevent the back flow of blood within the heart. What causes this is that the valve ages and shrinks and fails to completely close off the link on the left side of the heart between the two chambers. The left ventricle is very strong, and with the mitral valve failing, it easily forces some of the blood backward into the left atrium with every heartbeat. The pressure of blood within a normally functioning heart is highest in the left ventricle, as it is required to move the blood throughout the entire body. When blood flows backwards into the atrium, it elevates the blood pressure in that chamber and even further back into the lung vessels
Additional complications increase pressures in the right side of the heart as it attempts to do its job and pump blood forward into the lungs to collect the oxygen it needs to. Confronted with this elevated pressure within the lung area, the right side of the heart must work harder in moving the blood into the area.
~Coughing, especially after exercise, excitement, or when the animal has first got up after sleeping
~Weakness and signs of tiredness as the disease progresses
~Medications are used to strengthen and coordinate the muscles' contractions
~Diuretics can help remove the excess fluid that can accumulate in the lungs.
~Diets lower in sodium can assist in decreasing the fluid build-up