Articles Index/Health
Posted 07/02/00



Editor's Note: The heart survey discussed below was conducted in late 1999 and early 2000 and the survey form was distributed with the March, 2000, ANTIC; we have not posted the survey form. The initial phase of the study is closed and the posting of this article on the web is not an invitation for continued reporting.

At the request of the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club (NNTC), ANTA is distributing NNTC's survey of heart disease in Norfolks. The article below addresses the problem. A survey form is included in this mailing and we urge that you participate, regardless of whether you have ever had a Norfolk with a heart problem. If you have already returned a survey form, do not respond again.

Mitral valve disease (MVD) appears to be an increasingly prevalent problem in American Norfolk Terriers. Simply stated, MVD is a condition in which the dog's heart becomes enlarged and is no longer able to efficiently pump oxygen-carrying blood throughout the body. The result is chronic fatigue, lack of energy, and accumulation of fluid in the lungs. If untreated, a dog with MVD will expire from respiratory failure. In the Winter 1998 News, Norfolk breeder Kathleen Eimil provided an excellent and detailed explanation of MVD and how it affected her first Norfolk. During the past two years, the NNTC Norfolk Health/Genetics Committee has received numerous reports from breeders and owners citing MVD as a health problems and their concerns about this disease.

Since MVD is life-threatening and, in certain instances, also seems to be familial, the Norfolk Health/Genetics Committee feels the time has come to address this important issue. It feels extremely fortunate that Dr. Tom Rossi, who runs the Animal Ultrasound Clinic in Salem, MA, and whose interests also include MVD and cardiomyopathy in Boxers, is willing to work the club on this problem. Before enlisting Dr. Rossi's help, it is vitally important for participants to realize that a study of heart disease in Norfolks will require time and, above all, a completely open and forthcoming attitude on the part of those whose dogs have been affected.

During the initial phase of the study, the main thrust will be to determine the extent of MVD in Norfolks. In any breed, a certain percentage of dogs can be expected to have this problem. We need to ascertain whether the incidence of MVD in Norfolks is within normal limits or whether we have a serious problem brewing. Therefore, it is very important to document normal dogs as well as those with MVD.

Hopefully, all Norfolks visit their vet at least once a year for a complete physical. By carefully ausculting (listening with a stethoscope) the heart in a quiet room, your vet can determine if your Norfolk has a heart murmur. If a murmur is detected, a follow-up echocardiogram using the color flow Doppler technique should be performed. Quantitative information from the echocardiogram can then be forwarded* to Dr. Rossi at the Animal Ultrasound Clinic. An echocardiogram will also allow the vet to recommend the proper medication(s) for your dog so that he or she will be able to continue living as normally as possible.

Enclosed with this mailing is a form which we earnestly ask all Norfolk owners to complete*. Again, it is very important to report normal dogs as well as affected ones. If you do not want to include your name and/or the name(s) of your dog(s), please fill out the form anyway and send it in anonymously. At this point, we are simply concerned with numbers of clear versus affected Norfolks and quantitative information on affected dogs.

This study is NOT a witch hunt or a fault-finding mission. Far from it! It is a full-scale effort to determine just how deeply our breed is affected by a life-threatening problem and, most importantly, how to implements methods of controlling MVD. Please give us your fullest cooperation. Our sincerest thanks.

*Note: The initial phase of the study is closed and the posting of this article on the web is not an invitation for continued reporting.


adapted from article by Carol Falk and Nat R. LaMar, The Norwich & Norfolk News, Fall/Winter 1999
ANTIC, March, 2000


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