Have you heard of tricuspid valve dysplasia? This is a condition in the tricuspid valve of a dog’s heart. This valve is found in the middle of the right ventricle and the right atrium. Normally, blood flows from the right atrium and travels to the right ventricle, then to the lungs for oxygenation, then goes back to the left atrium, to the left ventricle and then out to circulate on the rest of the system. The tricuspid valve functions to prevent backflow of blood supply from the right ventricle onto the right atrium.
The tricuspid valve has 3 flaps. In the fetal development of the dog, the flaps are attached to a septum. When the fetus matures, the bonds that hold the flap open start to degrade. Eventually, it becomes a functioning valve that closes as the right ventricle contracts. When the bonds fail to degrade, it increases the risk of having tricuspid valve dysplasia. This condition makes the heart work weakly and may also lead to the enlargement of the right side of the heart which, in turn, may lead to congestive heart failure.
Any breed of dogs can acquire the disease. However, tricuspid valve dysplasia may be more prevalent in some breeds such as the Labrador Retrievers.
Tricuspid valve dysplasia is a hereditary disease, which means that Labradors may acquire the disease as passed down from the parents. Therefore, it is so common for multiple puppies in a litter to be affected by this disease. The mode of inheritance of such disease is still unknown.
Like many other diseases, appearance of symptoms in tricuspid valve dysplasia varies widely depending on its severity. Some of the symptoms include fluid retention as evidenced in weight gain, intolerance to exercise, cool extremities and heart murmurs. Some Labradors may show no signs of the disease until signs of congestive heart failure appear.
There are many ways to diagnose tricuspid valve dysplasia in dogs, one of which is auscultation or using of stethoscope to listen to the heart. Labradors suffering from the disease may have heart murmurs on the right side of the heart. Another way to come up with a diagnosis is through a chest x-ray. The radiograph results will show the size and shape of the heart. Unusual results may indicate presence of heart problems. But the most effective method to come up with a diagnosis is through echocardiogram where the heart is subjected to ultrasound. The doctor may be able to see the flow of the blood from the heart and see if there is tricuspid valve dysplasia.
There is still no determined remedy for tricuspid valve dysplasia. Modes of treatment depend largely on the extent of the condition. For mild cases of the disease, the heart may be able to cope with the condition without necessitating treatments. But for severe cases, treatments usually just involve management of symptoms when they appear. These treatment methods include diuretics which is the removal of excess water in the dog’s body. The other one is digitalis which is done to strengthen heart contraction. In addition, changes in diet may be recommended such as low sodium diet. There may also be a need to make activity restrictions. A surgery or replacement of the tricuspid valve is not advised because the rates are high but the success of the surgery is unknown.
Living with Labradors
Labradors suffering from tricuspid valve dysplasia should not work hard in order to sustain blood supply for the body. When exercising or playing, it is important to know when you should stop your dog in order to prevent its heart form overworking.