Studies show that cats are living longer lives than ever before, mostly thanks to improved medical care. Now it looks like dogs are getting their own life-extending research, with a remarkable new study revealing that a single drug could prevent millions of canine companions around the world from suffering from potentially fatal heart difficulties.
Led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) at the University of London, the seven-year-long study found that the drug pimobendan delays the onset of heart failure linked to mitral valve disease (MVD) in dogs for an average of 15 months.
MVD occurs when one or multiple heart valves become damaged or infected, and the flow of blood to and from the heart is impeded. It happens to be the most common form of heart disease for these particular pets, especially small dogs like toy poodles and dachshunds. Elderly people can suffer from MVD too.
Most dogs with heart complications die within two years of their onset. By raising awareness of this drug’s ability to counteract the condition, the researchers hope that people with pet dogs prone to suffering from it will get more than an extra year of companionship from them.
It must be noted, however, that a dog must still receive ultrasound and X-ray scans before a veterinarian can officially determine whether or not they have MVD. Only then can it be established if they should be given pimobendan.
The EPIC study, in short. RoyalVetsLondon via YouTube
“The vast majority of dogs with this heart disease will show no signs of the problem for quite some time, although they may have a heart murmur,” lead researcher Adrian Boswood, a professor of veterinary cardiology at the RVC, said in a statement emailed to IFLScience.
“This makes it crucial that all owners get their dog’s heart checked regularly by their vet,” Boswood added, noting that “this is especially true for small breed dogs over the age of 7 years old, as this is when the risk increases.”
Remarkably, cavalier King Charles spaniels are around 20 times more prone to MVD. They can be affected much earlier in life, from around 5 years old, and the team recommend that they are sent for check-ups far more regularly.