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Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Randy Walker DVM

About Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy...

Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a condition affecting the hearts of dogs in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged while the muscle wall of the heart becomes thinner than normal. Broken down into their root meanings these words describe the heart in this condition "Canine" means "pertaining to dogs". "Dilated" means "overfilled'' or over distended. "Cardio" means "pertaining to the heart". "Myo" means "muscle". "Pathy" means "disease of". So "Canine dilated cardiomyopathy" means "a disease of dogs in which the heart muscle becomes overly distended".

What Are The Clinical Signs Of Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

The "classic" signs of dilated cardiomyopathy are weight loss; general debility; weakness; abdominal distention; coughing; dyspnea; syncope (fainting spells); and rapid heart rate. Not all patients will show all of these classic signs. Also, dilated cardiomyopathy can have a very subtle onset and the dog will often times show little or no clinical signs in the early stages.

How In Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?

We diagnose canine dilated cardiomyopathy thorough x-rays and echocardiography (which is an ultrasound examination of the heart).

In Which Dogs Does Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Occur Most Often?

Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs mainly in large breed dogs such as the Great Dane, Irish wolfhound, Doberman pincher, Saint Bernard, and German shepherd among others. Dilated cardiomyopathy is also seen with increased frequency in the Cocker spaniel. It is thought that heredity plays a role in the expression of this disease.

How Is Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Treated?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is treated by using various medications to (1) strengthen the function of the heart as a pump, (2) reduce the workload on the heart by reducing the volume of blood the heart needs to pump, (3) restore normal heart rate and contractility of the heart muscle and (4) reduce the blood pressure.

What Is The Prognosis For Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Unfortunately, the prognosis for dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy is generally very poor and most dogs with this condition don't survive more than 6-12 months after the onset of clinical signs.

- Randy Walker DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
May 14,2004

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
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Titlebar Image: The Gentle Doctor, 1937-38 by Christian Peterson (U84.179) - Iowa State University