Embark Veterinary and Hill’s Pet Nutrition have partnered on the largest research study to date investigating genetic risk factors that may lead to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a late-onset heart condition that affects purebred and mixed-breed dogs alike. Our research goal is to develop a genetic test to identify the potential risk of developing DCM. If your dog has been diagnosed with DCM, please join our study.
DCM is a disease of the cardiac muscle that prevents the heart from functioning properly. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease. When caught early, DCM may respond to medical management, slowing the progression of the disease, but DCM can often lead to congestive heart failure.
Affected breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound, and English Cocker Spaniel.
Boxers may get an arrythmogenic form of DCM as early as 1 year of age.
English Cocker Spaniel
The English Cocker Spaniel is one of the smaller breeds affected with DCM.
What we know about DCM
- Causes: Although the cause(s) of canine DCM is unclear, there is evidence that genetics and nutrition are key to its development and progression. There are two known genetic variants (PDK4 and TTN) that may predispose dogs in certain populations of Doberman Pinschers to DCM. While Embark’s research is digging deeper into the reason some dogs with one or both of these variants develop DCM and some do not, Embark is also looking at multiple dog breeds to determine other causative variants.
- Clinical signs: Dogs with DCM may have decreased oxygen in the blood, causing lethargy, weakness, weight loss, and/or collapse. If there is also congestion of fluid in the lungs (congestive heart failure), dogs may experience coughing, increased respiratory rate and/or effort, or abdominal distention. Dogs with DCM may also be predisposed to the development of cardiac arrhythmias.
- Diagnosis: DCM is diagnosed by echocardiography, which is an ultrasound of the heart. Electrocardiography (EKG) may also be used to characterize heart rhythm and to identify arrhythmias.
- Treatment: Oral or injectable cardiac medications can be given in an effort to improve heart function and control arrhythmias, if present. Unfortunately, DCM can only be managed; there is no known cure at this time.
Who can participate in the study
Our goal is to genetically test 1,000+ dogs affected by DCM—the largest sample size studied to date and the first to include any and all breeds as well as mixed-breed dogs. We are actively recruiting dogs who have been diagnosed with DCM through echocardiography performed by a cardiologist. (Please note: dogs simply need to be diagnosed with DCM to qualify, there are no requirements regarding prior DCM-related genetic testing or suspicion of a nutritional component.)
Respondents will be selected after a full review of medical and nutritional history and clinical data. Our findings will be published in an open-access journal so everyone can benefit from the research.
Qualifying participants will receive:
- A complimentary Embark DNA Test, including health, trait, and COI analysis. (Embark provides a free cheek swab with prepaid shipping). All owner and dog information is kept confidential.
- Post-study results —Embark strives to publish in open-access journals
- Future opportunities—participate in new studies on canine health
Thank you for your continued support of our lifesaving canine genetic research projects. Together with industry leaders like Hill’s, our organizational partners, and our research partner, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, we will realize our mission: to end preventable disease in dogs. Learn more about our other active research projects here.