When a diagnosis of an incurable disease such as heart failure or an enlarged heart is made in a dog, the owners naturally want to know what the life expectancy is with this condition. In the case of the dog with heart problems, there are also some studies on life expectancy, of which I will give a small overview below. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized at this point that each dog has an individual course and the prognosis depends on many factors.
Life expectancy in dogs with enlarged heart due to leaking heart valves
A leaky heart valve (the disease is called mitral valve endocardiosis) is the most common heart problem in dogs and affects about 75% of the entire dog population more or less badly. Small breeds of dogs are especially affected. Fortunately, not all animals ever develop symptoms. It is a progressive disease that cannot be cured. However, medications are used to try to slow the progression and manage the symptoms so that the animal has a good quality of life for a long time. More about the disease and the treatment options can be found in separate articles and in my book.
What is the survival time of a dog with this disease?
With water in the lungs – stage C and above
It is necessary to distinguish in the survival time whether the patient is already in heart failure. Heart failure means the dog has or had water on the lungs. From the time of heart failure, according to studies, the average survival time is about 260 days if pimobendan, furosemide (+/- ACE inhibitors, spironolactone) were used for therapy. It should be remembered that this is the average survival time and there were dogs that lived only a few days and some that lived more than 2 years.
On average, from the time of heart failure, one can assume a survival time of three quarters of a year to a year.
Without water in the lungs – stage B1 and B2
If the animal is not yet in heart failure, it may take years before the first symptoms of the disease appear. So it depends mainly on when the disease is diagnosed. The best way to make statements is after ultrasound monitoring has taken place several times and thus the changes can be compared over a period of time. A very large study on this has examined the effect of pimobendan (Vetmedin) on survival time or time to onset of symptoms. This involved using pimobendan as soon as the ventricles enlarged and comparing this to a placebo group. The results were astonishing. With pimobendan, the time to heart failure or cardiac death was almost 3.2 years, about 15 months longer than without pimobendan. This also shows how important it is to diagnose the disease early in order not to miss the right time to use pimobendan. If the disease is diagnosed later, e.g. when the dog develops a cough, the time to heart failure is likely to be significantly shortened, as the disease had been present unnoticed for some time and thus a large part of the 3.2 years have already passed or, as no therapy with pimobendan was given, a shorter preclinical time (approx. 2 years) must also be assumed.
The average time to heart failure from the time of cardiac enlargement with pimobendan therapy is approximately 3, 2 years without pimobendan is approximately 2 years.