When your pet is diagnosed with heart disease, you may wonder: “How much can be done to prolong a good quality of life? Do the medications that my veterinary cardiologist recommends really do anything?” There are multiple diagnostic tests or medications that may be recommended to help your four-legged companion manage heart disease. You may not always notice an outward difference when starting these medications, but internally they will be healthier, so your pet will live a longer and happier life with you.
This is where the EPIC study comes in to give us the newest information on cardiac medications for pets. This 5+ year clinical study was performed to test the true benefits of starting pimobendan in cardiac pet patients earlier than at the onset of congestive heart failure.
The specifics of the EPIC study:
A total of 360 client-owned dogs with advanced myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD) with cardiac chamber enlargement were used to determine the potential benefits of adding pimobendan now instead of waiting until the onset of congestive heart failure. This study divided two groups of dogs with increased heart size prior to the development of congestive heart failure. One group was administered pimobendan and one group was administered nothing; neither group received any other cardiovascular medications. 
Conclusions from the EPIC study:
This study states that administration of pimobendan to dogs with MMVD and echocardiographic and radiographic evidence of cardiomegaly (heart enlargement) results in prolongation of the preclinical or asymptomatic period by approximately 15 months. It is safe, well tolerated, and represents a substantial clinical benefit. 
With this new information, you may have a couple questions regarding this medication and how it can help your dogs:
- How expensive is pimobendan? Unfortunately, this medication can be expensive, especially for larger dogs. However, we always recommend that you price shop for this medication. The best buy for you means the best treatment for your faithful companion! If you have questions on where to find this drug, please contact Cardiology Northwest or your primary care veterinarian. As the generic brands have not been fully evaluated and studied in their efficacy, proceed with caution if you wish to purchase these in generic form for your pet.
- What are potential side effects of pimobendan? Overall pimobendan has very few potential side effects. Rarely, some pet patients will experience vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weakness, or anxiousness. Other side effects may also occur, so if you notice anything unusual about your pet’s behavior after taking this medication, please contact Cardiology Northweset or your primary care veterinarian.
Other considerations to make when considering pimobendan for your pet:
- Although the drug is not yet labeled for use in cats, there is increasing information about potential benefit in feline patients with specific types of heart disease. Future studies are warranted to further evaluate this.
- Currently this medication is only formulated into a chewable tablet. However there may be more forms of this medication in the future.
So, is pimobendan worth it? This medication is most definitely worth it. Side effects are usually mild, and even then, they are uncommon. Most importantly, pimobendan significantly prolongs a high quality of life for your faithful pet companion.
Contact Cardiology Northwest for more information on this EPIC study and to learn how pimobendan can help your pet.
 Effect of Pimobendan in Dogs with Preclinical Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease and Cardiomegaly: The EPIC Study-A Randomized Clinical Trial.” J Vet Intern Med 6 (2016): 1765-1779. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=epic+trial+dogs
(accessed May 9, 2017)