The first ever case of pulmonary veno-occlusive disease (PVOD) has been found for the first time ever in a dog. Doctors have only ever seen human cases of the disease, and even then the disease is very rare, affecting less than ten percent of pulmonary hypertension patients per year in the United States.
PVOD is a cause of pulmonary hypertension with no cure. The cause is usually unknown, but PVOD is known to occur as a complication of lupus, leukemia, lymphoma, chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplantation. PVOD most often occurs in children and young adults. Vasodilation and immune response control work as treatments for PVOD, but the only way to truly prevent death is through a lung transplant.
“PVOD is considered one of the most severe forms of pulmonary hypertension,” said the study’s lead author Kurt Williams, PhD, from Michigan State University. Between 15 and 50 million Americans are affected by pulmonary hypertension each year in the United States.
Even though this is the first discovery of PVOD in a canine, Williams and his team are even starting to think that PVOD could actually be more common in dogs than in people.
"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."
PVOD is characterized by faulty blood vessels in the lungs, followed by increased difficulty for cardiac muscles to pump blood and the oxygen it carries to the tissues of the body. When these small pulmonary veins are blocked, blood pressure rises and can eventually cause heart failure. Symptoms of PVOD include cough, increased breathing rate, respiratory distress, loss of appetite, and chronic fatigue.
Williams said that it is the same process for dogs. However, since dogs are obviously less likely to accurately report symptoms in time for proper intervention, death is more likely to happen in cases of PVOD, quickly after a diagnoses if one is ever made.
Will dogs become a model for studying PVOD? Scientists are still reeling from this incredible discovery, but there is definitely a promising possibility that finding another organism with PVOD will help scientists figure out how to treat it more effectively or even cure it.
The study was recently published in the journal Veterinary Pathology
Sources: Michigan State University