What to Know About Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

A dog resting.

When extensive details regarding a dog’s lifestyle, diet, and genetics are known, we may have a stronger influence on their future health and longevity. As for disease prevention, daily exercise, proper nutrition, and routine medical care all go a long way toward maintaining or improving overall wellness. Unfortunately, there are certain health conditions that, due to genetics or other factors, are unavoidable. 

In cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, there are some known predictors of this disease. Characterized by the heart’s inability to circulate blood throughout the body, this serious and progressive disease needs immediate and continued intervention.

Details of DCM

The exact cause of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is unknown, but evidence suggests a couple of strong possibilities. Nutritional deficiencies in taurine and carnitine can result in the development of an enlarged heart. Some large dog breeds are naturally predisposed to dilated cardiomyopathy, while others develop symptoms as a result of infectious disease. 

A Far Reach

When the lower chambers, or ventricles, of the heart expand, blood can potentially build up until enough pressure is placed on the valves and the outer walls of the heart. This pressure leads to an expansion and thinning of the walls that may eventually cause congestive heart failure. If the body’s major organs don’t receive adequate blood supply, they can malfunction.

Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive panting
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Heart murmur
  • Weight loss
  • Distended abdomen
  • Collapse
  • Weak or irregular pulse

A Closer Look 

Symptoms may not appear until the disease has progressed beyond the earliest stages. Depending on a dog’s breed and genetic predisposition for dilated cardiomyopathy, we may be able to identify subtle signs long before they progress. The following breeds may have a higher incident rate than others for DCM due to an increased rate of taurine insufficiency:

  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • American cocker spaniel
  • Newfoundland
  • English setter
  • Doberman pinscher
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Boxer

When a dog’s genetics rule out a predisposition for DCM, there may be a link to a grain-free diet. Until more is known, it may be worthwhile to consult with your vet about adjusting their diet. Our staff is always happy to help you find the best food for your dog.  

Advanced Diagnostics and Treatment

Getting to the bottom of troubling symptoms is our priority. Our wide range of in-house advanced diagnostics deliver quick, accurate results. After a physical examination, we may recommend:

  • Chest X-rays to check the size of the heart, and note any abnormalities
  • Electrocardiogram can reveal heartbeat irregularities
  • Echocardiogram shows the functionality and shape of the heart

Depending on the root cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, treatment may include:

  • Nutritional support
  • Medication
  • Oxygen therapy

This condition is irreversible and progressive. We are committed to easing symptoms and improving quality of life. 

If you have questions about your dog’s breed, genetic predisposition, health history, and nutritional needs, please reach out to us at (407) 831-5205. South Seminole Animal Hospital is always here to help you and your dog.