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Mitral Valve Dysplasia in Animals


Sandra P. Tou

, DVM, DACVIM, North Carolina State University

Last full review/revision Jan 2020 | Content last modified Jan 2020

Mitral valve dysplasia is a congenital malformation of the mitral valve leaflets or any other component(s) of the mitral valve complex. This condition occurs in dogs and is a common defect of cats. The severity of mitral regurgitation determines the degree of left heart enlargement and the risk of left-side CHF. A systolic murmur is heard over the left apex. The diagnosis is made by echocardiography, and treatment of CHF, if present, is indicated.

Congenital malformation of the mitral valve complex (mitral valve dysplasia) is a common congenital cardiac defect in cats. Canine breeds predisposed are Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, and Great Danes. Mitral valve dysplasia results in mitral insufficiency and systolic regurgitation of blood into the left atrium. Any component of the mitral valve complex (valve leaflets, chordae tendineae, papillary muscles) may be malformed, and often more than one component is defective.


Malformation of the mitral valve complex results in significant valvular insufficiency. Chronic mitral regurgitation leads to volume overload of the left heart, which results in dilatation of the left ventricle and atrium. Severe mitral regurgitation can subsequently result in pulmonary venous congestion and left-side CHF. Dilatation of the left-side chambers predisposes affected animals to arrhythmias. When mitral regurgitation is severe, cardiac output decreases and signs of poor cardiac output may occur (weakness, syncope). In some cases, malformation of the mitral valve complex causes a degree of valvular stenosis as well as insufficiency.

Clinical Findings and Treatment

  • Mitral regurgitation creates a holosystolic heart murmur heard loudest over the left apex, similar to the murmur of acquired degenerative valvular disease

  • Echocardiography shows malformation of various components of the mitral valve apparatus, with varying degrees of regurgitation and, less often, stenosis

  • Animals exhibiting clinical and radiographic evidence of left heart failure (pulmonary edema) should be treated medically

Clinical signs correlate with the severity of the defect. Affected animals may display signs of left-side CHF. A holosystolic murmur of mitral regurgitation is prominent at the left cardiac apex. A diastolic heart sound (gallop rhythm) is present in some cases. Affected animals may have a precordial thrill over the left cardiac apex. Electrocardiography may demonstrate atrial arrhythmias (atrial premature complexes, atrial fibrillation), especially in severely affected animals with left atrial dilatation. There may also be evidence of both left atrial (widened P waves) and left ventricular enlargement. Thoracic radiographs may demonstrate severe left atrial enlargement. Left ventricular enlargement and pulmonary venous congestion can also be noted.

Echocardiography demonstrates malformation of the mitral valve complex (fused chordae tendineae and thickened, immobile valve leaflets, abnormal appearance to the papillary muscles) and left atrial and ventricular dilatation. Doppler echocardiography demonstrates severe mitral regurgitation. Evidence of mitral stenosis can be identified on the echocardiogram.

Prognosis for animals with clinical signs and severe mitral valve dysplasia is poor. Mildly affected animals may remain free of clinical signs for several years. Animals with CHF should be treated medically. For therapy of progressive left-side CHF, see management of heart failure.

For More Information

Also see pet health content regarding mitral valve dysplasia in dogs and cats.

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