A Guide to DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

The last thing any loving dog owner wants to see their pet suffer in any way. Unfortunately, though, K-9s don’t remain healthy forever, and the symptoms of old age can greatly affect their quality of life. Just as humans are, dogs are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Some of these diseases are similar – if not exactly the same – as the health issues experienced by men and women, such as arthritis. 

There are a few ailments that animals are extremely susceptible to, such as DCM. DCM, or dilated cardiomyopathy, is a heart-related disease common in both humans and canines that requires extreme veterinary care. As a dog owner, it is important to know the signs, symptoms, and preferred treatment methods of DCM in dogs in order to treat it effectively if the time comes. 

What is DCM?

DCM is a heart disease experienced by humans and animals like. Just as dilated cardiomyopathy works in humans, canines experience the same weakening of the heart muscles with DCM. When these muscles weaken, the heart struggles to pump blood throughout the body, and this applies to dogs of all shapes and sizes. 

However, DCM is much more common in large canine breeds like Great Danes and Boxers. Small dogs are unlikely to suffer from this disease, but it is possible. No matter if your dog is large or small, it is important to check for DCM with a licensed veterinarian once your pet reaches a certain age. 

What Causes DCM?

There is some debate on the actual cause of the disease, but Cornell University seems to have the strongest theory:

“The definitive cause of canine DCM is the subject of debate, although a number of factors including nutritional, infectious, and genetic predisposition have been implicated. The fact that canine DCM occurs at a higher incidence in specific breeds suggests a heritable genetic component to this disease, although it is likely that it’s etiology is multifactorial.”

Just as it goes for many human diseases, DCM is thought to be caused by a number of factors. Diet plays a huge role, as does hereditary history. The theory that DCM is genetically passed down is supported by the fact that specific breeds experience a higher likelihood of developing DCM. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of DCM?

In many cases, it can be difficult to diagnose DCM since the symptoms aren’t always obvious. Since the disease has to do with the weakening of the heart, visible symptoms might not be there. If they are, DCM is characterized by coughing, wheezing, and distention of the abdomen. 

How to Treat DCM?

The procedure used to treat DCM is meant to improve the heart’s pumping function, specifically the systolic function that allows the organ to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cornell says that the main forms of treatment include “dilating the peripheral blood vessels to decrease ventricular workload, eliminating pulmonary congestion if present, and controlling heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias if present.”