• Open Access

Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, and Arrhythmias in Dogs with Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease


  • (Åblad, Nilsen). This study was performed at Department of Basic Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, Din Veterinär Animal Hospital, Helsingborg, Sweden and Blå Stjärnans Animal Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • Preliminary results of this study were presented as a research abstract for the 2011 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Denver, CO.

Corresponding author: Caroline E. Rasmussen, DVM, Department of Basic Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 7 Grønnegårdsvej, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark; e-mail: cer@life.ku.dk.



Autonomic modulation of heart rhythm is thought to influence the pathophysiology of myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD).


(1) Holter-derived variables reflecting autonomic modulation of heart rhythm change with MMVD severity in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS); (2) Holter-derived variables can identify MMVD severity in CKCS; and (3) Holter-derived variables in CKCS in congestive heart failure (CHF) secondary to MMVD differ from those in dogs of other breeds in CHF.


Ninety privately owned dogs: 70 CKCS with variable MMVD severity and 20 non-CKCS in CHF secondary to MMVD.


Dogs were prospectively recruited and divided into 5 MMVD severity groups based on history, breed, and physical and echocardiographic examination findings. Holter-derived variables included heart rate variability (HRV), heart rate (HR), and arrhythmia evaluated from 24-hour Holter recordings.


In CKCS, 18 of 26 HRV (all < .0002) and 3 of 9 arrhythmia (all < .0004) variables decreased with increasing MMVD, whereas minimum and mean HR (all < .0001) increased with increasing MMVD severity. An arrhythmia variable representing sinus arrhythmia (“premature normals”) (< .0001) and the HRV variable triangular index (TI) (< .0001) could distinguish CKCS with moderate or severe mitral regurgitation from CKCS in CHF in specific intervals. Among dogs in CHF, Holter-derived variables did not differ among breeds.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance

In CKCS, Holter-derived variables changed with MMVD severity. “Premature normals” and TI showed diagnostic potential. Breed differences were not seen among dogs in CHF secondary to MMVD.