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This is a Heart condition.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy, DCM1

What is DCM1?

The most common acquired heart disease of dogs, this is a progressive disease of the heart ventricles: early diagnosis and treatment is key. The ventricles are the heavily muscled chambers that pump blood away from the heart. In DCM, the ventricles gradually lose muscle mass, leading to ventricular dilation, loss of heart contractility and an inability to pump oxygenated blood to the body. DCM typically presents in adult dogs in the end stages of the disease, when the heart is on its last legs. Signs include weakness, cold toes and ears, blue-grey gums and tongue, and respiratory distress: all signs of heart failure. Once a DCM dog comes to the vet, DCM can be diagnosed using specialized tests to evaluate the shape and activity of the heart muscle.

What are the signs & symptoms that develop in affected dogs?

In the early stages of DCM, you will likely not notice any changes in your dog. DCM typically presents at the end stages of the disease, when the heart is failing. Signs include weakness, cold toes and ears, blue-grey gums and tongue, and respiratory distress. If you see these signs, take your dog immediately to an emergency veterinarian!

When do signs and symptoms develop?

This disease can rarely be seen in puppies and young adults. It is typically seen in middle aged to older dogs.

How do vets diagnose this condition?

The earlier a diagnosis can be reached, the better the outcome. If you are concerned about your dog’s heart, discuss it with your veterinarian who can run basic preliminary tests. They may recommend a visit to a veterinary cardiologist for a complete evaluation, including an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram).

How is this condition treated?

Treatment is completely dependent on how advanced the disease is at the time of diagnosis. It can range from monitoring the patient periodically to intensive hospitalization at specialty veterinary practices.

What actions should I take if my dog is affected?

The cause of this disease is multifactorial and not completely understood. Genetics, nutrition, infections and environmental exposures can all play a role in the development of DCM. In fact, DCM has recently been featured extensively in the news due to suspected nutritional deficiencies in some grain free diets. Annual echocardiograms by a board certified cardiologist and annual Holter monitoring are the best ways to diagnose DCM early.

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