Occurrence of mitral valve insufficiency in clinically healthy Beagle dogs.
Observer variation in diagnosing mild mitral regurgitation in dogs by cardiac auscultation was assessed by having 6 veterinarians with different levels of experience examine 57 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Comparisons with color Doppler echocardiography and phonocardiography were made, and the effects of 2 physical maneuvers on the auscultatory findings were evaluated. Using mildly diseased dogs, interobserver agreement in diagnosing the presence or absence of left-sided murmurs ranged from 63% to 88%. The agreement with phonocardiography (range, 53-91%) increased with the amount of observer experience. The 2 most experienced observers could discern soft ejection murmurs from regurgitant murmurs and were able to diagnose 89% of the dogs with regurgitant jets larger than 30% of the left atrial area. In general, less experienced observers diagnosed most jets larger than 50%. In many dogs with small jets, no murmur was found by auscultation and phonocardiography. The audibility of mild regurgitation was significantly reduced in dogs that were difficult to auscultate. Early systolic murmurs were typical of mild regurgitation, whereas holosystolic murmurs typified severe regurgitation. In a few dogs, late systolic murmurs alternated with holosystolic murmurs. Systolic clicks were found phonocardiographically in 18 dogs with mild to moderate regurgitation, but the audibility apparently was low. In many mildly affected dogs, physical maneuvers increased murmur intensity. Thus, some form of dynamic auscultation might facilitate the diagnosis of mild regurgitation. Auscultatory findings in mild regurgitation appear to depend on observer experience, circulatory status, and how difficult the dog is to auscultate.