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Heart Problems in German Shepherds | Heart Valve Malformations | Atrioventricular Valve Dysplasia (AVD) | Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia | Mitral Valve Dysplasia

German Shepherd heart problems also include heart valve malformations, specifically Atrioventricular Valve Dysplasia (AVD), Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, and Mitral Valve Dysplasia.  And while aortic stenosis refers specifically to problems with the aorta’s connection to the heart, other forms of heart disease in German Shepherd dogs affect entirely different regions of the heart. If the mitral or tricuspid valves are malformed, the dogs are considered to be suffering from AVD, an umbrella term that refers to Atrioventricular Valve Dysplasia – or a wide range of malformations. If the valve is insufficiently narrow then the atrium area on the same side of the heart as the afflicted valve will become dilated, causing the ventricle area to enlarge. This excess of volume in the ventricle will cause blood to either build up excess fluid in the lungs as a result of malformation in the mitral valve, or else leak into the body as a result of a malformation in the tricuspid valve. Yet if the valve is too narrow, then stenosis will take place, and the atria will dilate and the ventricle, by contrast, will shrink. This can cause serious problems either in the mitral valve, affecting blood flow to the lungs (where it is oxygenated) or else in the tricuspid valve, which sends blood all over the body, affecting circulation overall. Male animals tend to be at a higher risk than female animals for this condition, which is congenital in nature.

Tricuspid valve dysplasia and mitral valve dysplasia have different symptoms. German Shepherds suffering from the former may experience abdominal swelling as a result of fluid (blood) buildup and leakage, overly audible breathing as a result of improper circulation, and/or slowed or stopped growth. Dogs suffering from the latter may develop an intolerance to physical exertion, which may include respiratory problems or even fainting.  A diagnosis can be made through a combination of chemical blood profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count – if these come back showing “normal” results, it may suggest that the problem is based entirely in heart structure. Electrocardiograph readings and X-rays or other imaging tools will help to determine which area of the heart is afflicted.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for dogs suffering from valve dysplasia is moderate at best, and poor at worse. While some medication, including diuretics, is available, and drugs like digoxin (i.e.,, antiarrhythmic drugs) might be prescribed, ultimately any successful treatment will rely upon intensive hospital care followed by a life-long lifestyle change – limits in exercise, a curtailed sodium intake, and extra care in weight management.

Heart problems in German Shepherds also include that of Aortic Stenosis, Inherited Ventricular Tachycardia (Inherited Sudden Death), and Pulmonic Stenosis.

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