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Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs (DCM)

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize dilated cardiomyopathy and exclude all other diseases. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination including auscultation of the heart and lungs

  • Thoracic radiographs (chest X-rays)

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG)

  • Arterial blood pressure

  • Packed cell volume test or a complete blood count (CBC)

  • Serum biochemistries, which are blood tests that are especially important if there is heart failure, thromboembolism or complications in other organs

  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to establish the diagnosis and may require referral

    Treatment

  • In advanced cases leading to congestive heart failure, drug therapy with a diuretic, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (such as enalapril or benazepril and/or digoxin is prescribed. The diet is changed to reduce sodium intake. Additional drugs may be added such as the diuretic/hormone antagonist, spironolactone. Nutraceuticals such as taurine pills or L-carnitine are recommended in very specific instances.

  • In cases of "arrhythmogenic" dilated cardiomyopathy, drugs that regulate the electrical heart rhythm are indicated.

  • In "occult" dilated cardiomyopathy (healthy dog with early DCM diagnosed by echocardiography), an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor drug and possibly a beta-blocker drug is recommended to protect the heart muscle from further damage.

    Home Care and Prevention

  • Administer any veterinary prescribed medications.

  • Watch for difficulty in breathing, increase in coughing, lethargy or sudden inability to use one or more limbs. Observe the breathing rate when your pet is relaxing.

  • Schedule regular veterinary visits to monitor the condition.

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