Pulmonary hypertension discovered in dogs

Animals and humans are more alike than we think. However, that similarity is not always favorable, as one study suggests. 

Researchers from Michigan State University have discovered a rare, severe form of pulmonary hypertension in dogs. Up until now, it has only been classified as a human lung disease. 

The study was published Feb. 29 in Veterinary Pathology.

“Our research is the first to document the existence of pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, or PVOD, in dogs,” said Kurt Williams, DVM, PhD, DACVP, the study’s lead author. “PVOD is considered one of the most severe forms of pulmonary hypertension.”

Pulmonary hypertension develops because of abnormal blood vessels in the lungs, which makes it harder for the heart to push blood through and provide oxygen to the rest of the body. In cases of PVOD, the small veins in the lungs become blocked, increasing pressure in these blood vessels, and ultimately causing heart failure.

“The same process happens in canines,” Williams said. “These dogs also come in with similar symptoms as humans, yet because subtle changes in health may not be recognized as quickly in dogs, death can occur quickly once the animal is seen by a veterinarian.”

Symptoms include cough, increased rate of breathing, respiratory distress, loss of appetite, and chronic fatigue. Fatal progression of the disease in humans can last up to two years.

“PVOD is a poorly understood disease not just because it’s so rare, but also because there’ve been no other animals known to have the disease,” Williams said. “Our finding changes things.”

Photo credit: © iStock/Lindsay Helms

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