Scientists have identified a drug that may allow dogs to live significantly longer by delaying the onset of heart failure by an average of 15 months. A new study has highlighted the need for a shift in how vets approach the diagnosis and management of mitral valve disease (MVD) -one of the most common heart diseases in dogs.The EPIC (Evaluation of Pimobendan In Cardiomegaly) study has found that the drug pimobendan extends the asymptomatic period by an average of 15 months, and dogs that received it 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, the researchers saThe vast majority of older, small-breed dogs with a characteristic heart murmur are likely to have preclinical MVD; many of them will also have cardiomegaly secondary to the disease and may benefit from early treatment. “Thanks to the results, vets no longer have to adopt a `watch and wait’ approach to suspected preclinical cases of MVD,” said Adrian Boswood, professor at RVC, who led the research.”When a typical mitral valve murmur is detected, vets should now investigate further to look for cardiac enlargement,” he aIf demonstrated, this suggests the patient will probably benefit from treatment with pimobendan before the onset of clinical signs,” she said.