Marcy Wright, Horsetooth Retrievers, recently wrote about what it's like running a dog with TVD and managing the condition. FC-AFC Baypoint's Westminster Abbey QFTR, owned by Don & Kathy Fregelette was a talented (114.5 AA pts, 19 AA wins, 3x National/Canadian finalist) dog who lived with Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia and a cardiac arrythmia.
In honor of Abbey, I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned from her about TVD:
1) Not every dog with TVD has a heart murmur. Abbey had NO heart murmur. She would have had an OFA auscultation only cardiac clearance. Scary.
2) The TVD was not Abbey’s biggest challenge. She could have run successfully with her mild TVD (and atrial septal defect!), but she also had a cardiac arrythmia from an accessory pathway that would cause her heart to go into Ventricular Tachycardia. Medications helped prevent the arrhythmia. We have trained other dogs with mild TVD and it is not career limiting.
3) What is career (and life) limiting is moderate to severe TVD.
4) They have not determined the genetics of TVD…yet. It is thought to be polygenetic, therefore coming from many different genes. What we can do, as breeders, is test our breeding stock to be sure we are not breeding affected individuals. In the same vein as hip dysplasia, breeding fewer affected individuals will likely reduce the amount of affected dogs in the future.
5) Dogs affected with TVD have come from two echo cleared parents. Just like dysplastic dogs have come from two OFA Excellent parents.
6) Dr. Heaney from Petcardia in Colorado was instrumental in ensuring Abbey had a safe and successful trial career. Abbey could not have accomplished what she did without frequent check-ups (including training with a Holter monitor every year) from Dr. Heaney. A cardiologist is your best friend when discovering your dog has a cardiac condition.
7) Cardiac disease is not always a death sentence for a dog. But thoughtful breeding decisions, while not throwing “the baby out with the bath water” may reduce incidences of TVD in the future.
8 Breeders and owners need not be secretive or ashamed of a TVD diagnosis with their dogs. It happens and it's no-one's fault. Sharing stories of any and all dogs with TVD can help people make sounder breeding decisions and reduce the incidence of it moving forward.
9) Since Abbey's diagnosis, we have been echoing many dogs in our kennel and discovered 2 additional dogs with TVD...neither of which we knew had the condition prior to the echocardiogram.
Thank you to Don & Kathy Fregelette for being so open in sharing her story.