A new heart treatment offers hope for millions of dog owners. In a good news for dog lovers, scientists have identified a drug that may allow your canine friends to live significantly longer by delaying the onset of heart failure by an average of 15 months.
The study has highlighted the need for a significant shift in how vets approach the diagnosis and management of mitral valve disease (MVD) - one of the most common heart disease in dogs.
The EPIC study (Evaluation of Pimobendan In Cardiomegaly) found that the drug pimobendan extended the asymptomatic period by an average of 15 months, while dogs that received the drug also lived significantly longer than those receiving a placebo.
The study at Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the UK was terminated early following an interim analysis as the evidence was considered conclusive and it was deemed unethical to continue to withhold treatment from the placebo group, researchers said.
Heart disease is one of the top five causes of death in UK dogs, with MVD accounting for around 75 per cent of cases.
The vast majority of older, small breed dogs with a characteristic heart murmur are likely to have preclinical MVD; many of which will also have cardiomegaly secondary to the disease and may benefit from early treatment.
“Thanks to the EPIC study results, vets no longer have to adopt a ‘watch and wait’ approach to suspected preclinical cases of MVD,” said Adrian Boswood, professor at the RVC, who led the research.
“When a typical mitral valve murmur is detected, vets should now investigate further to look for cardiac enlargement,” said Boswood.
“If demonstrated, this suggests the patient will probably benefit from treatment with pimobendan before the onset of clinical signs,” she said.
“It’s great that as a trusted treatment, pimobendan has a wealth of safety data behind it in addition to that gleaned from the EPIC study, which can help support vets when prescribing it in this new way,” she added.
The study was took seven years to complete and involved 360 dogs across 11 countries in four continents.
In light of the findings, vets should now consider testing early for signs of preclinical MVD, and in dogs with cardiomegaly secondary to preclinical MVD, vets should consider the use of pimobendan to delay the onset of congestive heart failure and extend the asymptomatic period, researchers said.
The study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.