DCM in dogs is an extremely serious condition, and even if a dog is treated, the mortality rate is very high with this disease.
To make this disease even more frightening, it is very common in dogs and it is considered the most common reason for congestive heart disease.
Although it is much more prevalent in large breeds of dogs, it can and does affect small breeds as well.
DCM in dogs is known by another name, dilated cardiomyopathy, and is a disease that is best characterized by what it does to your dog’s heart.
It causes dilation or the enlargement of their heart chambers as well as a dramatic reduction in the contractions. In almost every case, the left ventricle is involved.
However, if it is severe enough, dilation of all the cardiac chambers will occur.
When these conditions exist, it can cause heart arrhythmia's as well as heart murmurs to occur, as well as something even more dangerous; heart valve leakage.
When leakage occurs in your dog’s heart, it can very easily lead to the buildup of fluids in their chest as well as their abdominal cavities.
Once this build up occurs around the heart, it places your dog at a very high risk of developing congestive heart failure.
The actual clinical conditions can range from very mild, where it is considered to be an occult disease.
An occult disease is a situation where it is hidden, but is still a very real threat.
However, in most cases, it will not be occult, but rather a very serious threat that is anything but hidden.
It most commonly will affect dogs between the ages of four to ten years.
DCM in dogs primarily attacks large breeds, but it can also affect some smaller breeds.
The breeds that are the most at risk of contracting this disease include Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, Dalmatians, and Doberman pinchers.
Other large breeds that are affected include Old English Sheepdogs, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernard's, Scottish Deer-hounds, and Golden Retrievers.
Smaller breeds that are also subject to this disease include English and American cocker spaniels, and Portuguese water dogs.
The actual cause DCM in dogs is believed to be hereditary; however, there are some breeds where it is believed to be caused by dietary deficiencies.
Dalmatians, Golden retrievers, as well as Cocker Spaniels are believed to develop this disease because of dietary deficiencies.
However, it is very important to understand, while this is speculated, it is just that; speculation.
There are other potential causes of DCM in dogs, but they are also just speculative with no proof that can be documented.
Other potential causes include a deficiency of metabolic substances such as taurine, as well inflammation of the myocardium.
The myocardium in your dog is the thick middle layer of the heart that forms the bulk of the heart wall and contracts as this critical organ beats.
Severe global myocardial ischemia is also a potential cause, and this is a situation where there is a lack of blood supply to your dog’s heart.
Toxic injury to the heart muscle cells may also be the cause, especially from drugs like doxorubicin or from potassium iodine toxicity.
Chronic hypokalemia, which is low blood potassium, may also be a cause.
However, in the majority of cases DCM, the actual cause is considered to be idiopathic, meaning there is no known actual cause.
While DCM in dogs has no real actual known cause, there is one thing that is known; the symptoms.
The first signs that your dog has this disease will be a shortness of breath that will very quickly be followed by coughing.
Coughing in dogs is perhaps that most frightening sound you will ever hear your dog make.
All dogs will cough when they have eaten or drank too fast, but it is very apparent of what the cause of the coughing is.
If they start to cough for no known reason, it is a real warning sign and should be treated for the very serious threat that it is.
It is also the sign that there is something very seriously wrong with your dog, or something very serious developing.
The next signs that you will see will be a gradual or very sudden intolerance to any type of exercise.
Once this occurs, it will lead to another sign that will stop you dead in your tracks; collapsing.
Once your dog collapses for any reason at all, quickly feel their abdomen.
If they have any type of abdominal distension, there is a very good chance that fluid is building at or near their heart.
Treatment for DCM in dogs should be discussed in great detail with your veterinarian.
It is very important for owners to keep in mind that this is a very serious condition that has a very high mortality rate.
For this reason, you may also want to get a second opinion as there are some treatments available.
The treatment will all depend on the overall condition of your dog, especially if they have developed congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, or abnormal heart beats as a result of this disease.
If it is in the severe stages, your dog will have to be hospitalized and may be given several different drugs, depending on what has actually developed in your dog.
CHF or congestive heart failure can be managed in most cases with diuretic drugs that will help to reduce the fluid buildup.
This is usually given with oxygen, but all steps need to be fully discussed with your professional.
If your dog is considered to be in the occult stage and the dilated cardiomyopathy is still considered to be healthy, there are angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor drugs that can protect your dog’s heart muscle from further damage.
These include enalapril and benazepril as well as beta-blocker drugs that are also very effective.
However, only your veterinarian can make this choice, but it something an owner should consider in the conversation.
If the diet is believed to be the cause, the diet must be changed to reduce your dog’s sodium intake.
Taurine pills or L-carnitine may also be utilized, but they will be extremely specific and should be no means is given without the direction of your professional.
DCM in dogs is much more common than most owners realize. It is a very dangerous condition that has a very high rate or mortality even if your dog can be treated.
For this reason, it is very important to catch the warning signs as early as possible.
If your dog does start to cough for no apparent reason, run, do not walk, to your veterinarian as quickly as you can.