What is DCM in Dogs? Cause, Treatment and Diagnosis

Dogs with DCM have an enlarged heart because the disease affects the heart muscle. Heart failure occurs when the heart’s chambers and valves enlarge, making it more difficult for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body. This can cause fluid to collect in the chest and belly (congestive heart failure).

In cases that aren’t genetic, early diagnosis, veterinarian care, and dietary changes may improve heart function.

What is the Cause of DCM in Dogs?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs is a primary cardiac muscle disease that reduces the heart’s ability to create pressure, hence impairing its ability to pump blood. Nutritional deficiencies, viral diseases, and genetic predisposition have all been suggested as possible causes of canine DCM, although the exact origin of this condition is still up for debate.

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Although the etiology of canine DCM is likely to be complicated, the fact that it is more common in some dog breeds than others implies that it may have a heritable genetic component. Breeds prone to DCM include the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel. Taurine-responsive DCM has been reported in Cocker Spaniels, and dietary carnitine insufficiency may have a role in some cases of Boxer DCM.

Clinical Signs of DCM in Dogs

Ventricular enlargement and thinning of the ventricular wall are hallmarks of DCM. All four chambers of the heart are enlarged in many cases. Signs of DCM, such as fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and collapse, are caused by the heart’s impaired pumping capacity and the resulting congestion of blood in the lungs.

Atrial (atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia) or ventricular (ventricular tachycardia) arrhythmias may arise as a result of the heart’s dilatation, decreased oxygen supply, and increased oxygen demand caused by an elevated heart rate and ventricular wall stress (ventricular premature complexes, ventricular tachycardia). Dogs with arrhythmias may be more likely to die suddenly than healthy dogs.


Echocardiography is used to diagnose DCM because it displays the enlarged chambers and decreased pump performance parameters typical of the condition. Thoracic radiography is helpful for assessing lung tissue and arteries, and it may reveal signs of fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or in the spaces around the lungs (pleural effusion).

In some circumstances, a 24-hour electrocardiogram (Holter monitor) may be advised for a more precise characterization of cardiac rhythm and the exclusion of arrhythmias.

Treatment for DCM in Dogs

Treatment for DCM in Dogs
Treatment for DCM in Dogs

Improving systolic (pump) function, reducing ventricular strain, clearing up pulmonary congestion, and regulating heart rate and cardiac arrhythmias are all goals of treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Cardiovascular medicines, given intravenously in cases of emergency or orally in more stable patients, accomplish these therapy goals.


Depending on the breed and the dog’s health at the time of presentation, the prognosis for canine DCM varies. While DCM in Cocker Spaniels may advance more slowly than in certain other breeds, the outlook is less favorable for Doberman Pinschers with the disease.

It is commonly accepted that patients who present with congestive heart failure have a poorer prognosis than those who do not. Regardless, treatment with medicine has the potential to greatly extend the lives of affected dogs and enhance their quality of life. Stay tuned with us only on Lee Daily


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