By Amanda Rowland

As our world progresses, the advances that society makes in the medical field continue to be groundbreaking. We are so thankful to have doctors, surgeons, physicians, nurses and countless other healthcare professionals that keep us all healthy and save lives –but what about the lives of our four-legged family members?

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have dogs around know that a life without our barking best friends is no life at all! That’s why it is so important to care about the health and wellness of our pets just as much as our own, and it is comforting to know that veterinary medicine has advanced over the years and across the world. Recently, one of those great advancements has come to Gainesville, as the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine will soon offer something that could change the lives of millions of dogs affected by degenerative mitral valve disease.

Degenerative mitral valve disease is a type of heart disease that could eventually cause heart failure and death in many dogs. It is caused when the mitral valve between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart begins to wear down over time and leak, causing mitral valve insufficiency (MVI). Ten percent of dogs will develop a form of heart disease in their lifetime, and about 80 percent of those cases are due to MVI, according to the Veterinary Centers of America. Eventually, mitral valve disease will cause congestive heart failure as the efficiency of the heart is reduced.

For years, the diagnosis of mitral valve disease was dreaded by all dog owners because there was no procedure or cure that could reverse the disease and treatment was limited, but a surgical procedure developed by Japanese veterinary cardiologist Dr. Masami Uechi, has changed that –and he is teaching UF Veterinarians how to do the procedure.

This open-heart surgery for dogs who suffer from degenerative mitral valve disease can extend a dog’s life by years. Dr. Uechi and his team have performed over 400 mitral valve repairs in Japan at the JASMINE Veterinary Cardiovascular Medical Center and overseas, according to JASMINE.

Dr. Uechi has traveled to UF to share his developments and procedure for mitral valve repair with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and UF veterinarians have also traveled to Japan to witness Dr. Uechi perform the surgery. Soon, UF will become the only program in the country to offer the procedure, and with the right training to all medical staff, the program will run independently out of UF.

This new development in the veterinary world has the ability to change and elongate the lives of many dogs in our country and across the world. The teams at JASMINE and UF are demonstrating the importance of sharing and expanding medical knowledge so that all can have the opportunity to focus on the health of our pets and never stop making memories with all members of the family –even the furry ones.