A break-through drug to treat congestive heart failure (CHF) in dogs is now available in the United States. Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) is the exclusive manufacturer of Vetmedin(R) (pimobendan), which is the first new drug approved by the FDA in over a decade to treat CHF in dogs.

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CHF is one of the most common heart problems in dogs, especially older, smaller breeds. Heart disease affects up to 11 percent of the almost 75 million dogs in the United States, and the incidence of heart disease could be as high as 60 percent in aged dogs. The majority of dogs die within one year after showing clinical signs of CHF.

While there is no cure for CHF, clinical study results have shown that dogs with the condition live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life when treated with Vetmedin. QUEST (Quality of Life and Extension of Survival Time), the largest clinical study of dogs with CHF ever conducted, revealed that dogs treated on Vetmedin lived nearly twice as long as those not treated with Vetmedin. On average, dogs on Vetmedin lived 267 days, versus 140 days for dogs who did not receive the new drug.

“Vetmedin is proven effective in prolonging the lives of dogs suffering from heart failure,” said Sonya Gordon, DVM, DVSc, a veterinary cardiologist at Texas A&M University. “Once a veterinarian diagnoses heart failure in a dog, Vetmedin can immediately make the dog feel better and nearly double life expectancy.”

CHF leads to excessive water and salt retention, causing fluid build-up in the lungs. Signs of CHF in dogs include a reduced willingness to walk or exercise, fatigue, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and coughing.

Vetmedin alleviates CHF symptoms by opening up blood vessels, thereby decreasing resistance to blood flow, and helping the heart to pump more efficiently. Available by prescription only, Vetmedin is administered orally to dogs in chewable tablets twice daily and may be given alongside other cardiac medications. Pet owners should begin to see an improvement in their dog within the first week on Vetmedin.

Studies show that more than half of dog owners are unaware that their dog may be at risk of heart failure, yet knowing what to look for and catching it early are keys to prolonging and improving the quality of a dog’s life. Important steps that dog owners can take to keep their pets healthy and heart disease-free are maintaining the dog’s proper body weight, providing regular exercise and taking the dog to a veterinarian at least once a year for a checkup. Dog owners can learn more at www.yourdogsheart.com.

Vetmedin (pimobendan) has been available in Europe for over seven years and is now licensed in more than 15 countries worldwide. It is indicated for the management of signs of mild, moderate or severe congestive heart failure in dogs. Vetmedin comes in capsules and chewable tablets. In the United States, only the chewable tablets are licensed. Both the capsules and chewable tablets contain the same pharmaceutical ingredient, pimobendan, and are considered equivalent for clinical use. Bioequivalence, however, has not been established.

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