Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Cats

Overview of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease characterized by dilation or enlargement of the heart chambers and markedly reduced contraction. The left ventricle is most always involved. Advanced cases demonstrate dilation of all cardiac chambers.

Below is an overview of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats (DCM) followed by in-depth information on the diagnosis and treatment of this feline heart disease.

DCM in cats is now comparably rare. In the past, feline dilated cardiomyopathy was due to dietary deficiency in the amino acid taurine and commonly affected breeds such as Burmese, Abyssinian, Siamese and domestic mixed breed cats. Today, reputable cat food companies assure their products are well supplemented with taurine, an essential dietary amino acid for cats.

DCM can occur in cats of any age – from 2 to 20 years. The mean age of onset is approximately 10 years. It appears to be more common in male cats.

Occasional cases of idiopathic DCM, which is cardiomyopathy of unknown cause, are observed in cats. Clinical signs include CHF and development of blood clots (thromboembolism) that obstruct blood flow to one or more legs.

DCM is very serious and the mortality rate, even of treated cases, is very high.

What to Watch For

The advent of these problems should alert you that a serious emergency is at hand.

Diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats

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

Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats (DCM)

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. Changes in attitude and appetite are often signs of problems in cats.

Schedule regular veterinary visits to monitor the condition.

Dilated cardiomyopathy in cats can be caused by taurine deficiency. This is often associated with exclusive feeding of a single (off brand or “special” brand) canine or human diet. Feed a balanced, high-quality cat food that is supplemented with taurine.

In-depth Information on Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats (DCM)

DCM is thought to be the result of diverse processes that affect heart muscle cell function.

Causes may include:

The vast majority of cases of DCM are idiopathic and probably predisposed by genetic factors. Most reported cases of DCM in the cat have developed secondary to taurine deficiency, but current cases are usually unresponsive to taurine supplementation, indicating there is another reason for cases.

A number of other diseases can be easily confused with dilated cardiomyopathy unless an appropriate diagnostic evaluation is completed. Diagnostic tests should help exclude the following conditions from consideration:

Diagnosis In-depth

A complete medical history should be obtained and your veterinarian should complete a thorough physical examination. Medical tests are needed to establish the diagnosis, exclude other diseases, and determine the impact of this disorder on your pet. The following diagnostic tests are often recommended:

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests to exclude or diagnose other conditions, or to understand the impact of dilated cardiomyopathy on your pet. These tests insure optimal medical care and should be selected on a case-by-case basis. Examples include:

Therapy In-depth

The principles of therapy depend on the presentation or current condition of the pet. If symptoms are severe, hospital therapy is necessary. Precise treatments depend on the problems caused but may include: treatment of congestive heart failure, control of an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms), management of renal failure (kidney failure), treatment of hypotension (low blood pressure) or shock caused by severe heart failure, or treatment of complications of thrombosis (blood clots).

Follow-up Care for Cats with Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Optimal treatment for your pet with dilated cardiomyopathy requires a combination of home care and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical. Administer prescribed medication and alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet. Optimal follow-up care often involves the following: