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Embark DCM Study


Participate in Embark's
DCM Study

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a late-onset heart condition that affects both purebred and mixed breed dogs. We are actively recruiting dogs diagnosed with DCM to advance this study.


Is my dog eligible?

Dogs must be diagnosed with DCM to qualify. There are no requirements regarding prior DCM-related genetic testing or suspicion of a nutritional component

What is DCM?

DCM is a disease of the cardiac muscle that prevents the heart from functioning properly. An echocardiogram, ultrasound, chest x-ray, or Holter monitoring 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.

How it works

Submit eligibility form

The eligibility form will provide us with information that is beneficial to the progress of the DCM Study. Please complete the eligibility form if your dog has a confirmed DCM diagnosis by a veterinarian.

Receive a complimentary Embark 
Breed + Health kit

If your dog qualifies for the study – you will receive a complimentary Embark Breed + Health Kit in the mail. You will then need to activate your kit, swab your dog, and return the kit with the prepaid mailing envelope. Once received by our laboratory your dog will be automatically enrolled in the DCM study.  You will receive email notifications of swab processing status. *International shipping costs can also be reimbursed.

Receive post-study results

Once your Breed + Health kit have been processed and completed, you will receive a notification to view results of standard Embark testing. Embark alway strives to publish our discoveries in open-access journals- any DCM discoveries will be featured on the Embark Veterinary website.

Working together to advance research for DCM

Embark Veterinary and Hill's Pet Nutrition have a shared mission of better health and increased longevity for all dogs. With your help, we can better understand the genetic underpinnings of Dilated Cardiomyopathy and work together to protect future generations of dogs from this often debilitating heart disease.

About the DCM 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.) 

Frequently asked questions

  • What type of documentation of my dog’s diagnosis is needed to participate?

    While our study eligibility  does not require additional documentation for enrollment at this time - any documentation or veterinary records you can provide that led to a confirmed diagnosis allows us to list your dog in a higher tier for the study.  


    An echocardiogram performed by a cardiologist is preferred , however, additional diagnostics are acceptable and appreciated. 

  • Which breeds are affected by DCM?

    Most commonly : 

    Doberman Pinscher : About 60% of Doberman Pinschers are more likely to be diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy in their lifetime. 

    Boxer: Boxers may get an arrythmogenic form of DCM as early as 1 year of age. 

    Mastiff: As a large breed dog, DCM is common in Mastiff's

    Great Dane: As a giant breed, Great Danes are prone to DCM and according to the Great Dane Club of America the disease in this breed may be sex-linked. 

    Irish Wolfhound: Approximately one third of Irish Wolfhounds develop DCM in their lifetime. Prognosis varies depending on breed, heart health upon examination, and numerous other factors.

    Newfoundland: Symptoms of DCM in Newfoundlands include increased heart rate, pale gums, loss of appetite, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, and sometimes a dry cough. 

    English Cocker Spaniel: The English Cocker Spaniel is one of the smaller breeds affected with DCM. 

  • What are the causes of DCM?

    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.

  • What are the clinical signs of DCM?

    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.

  • How is DCM diagnosed?

    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.

  • What is treatment like for DCM?

    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.

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