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
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.