ARVC in Dogs and Cats: What to Know and How to Help

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is an inherited heart disease affecting some dog and cat breeds. It’s caused by a genetic mutation that disrupts the heart’s electrical system, and at Coast-to-Coast Cardiology, our dedicated team has significant experience in managing it.

Like many serious conditions affecting the heart health of pets, ARVC requires a combination of sophisticated diagnostics, ongoing monitoring, and consistently targeted care to ensure an optimal outcome. This blog will cover the basics of how those actions work, as well as what you as an owner can do to stay vigilant for signs and symptoms.

What Happens in ARVC?

Typically, the heart muscle walls contract in a coordinated way, following electrical signals.

  • With ARVC, however, healthy muscle tissue in the right ventricle (the lower right chamber) is replaced with fatty or fibrous tissue.
  • This disrupts the electrical signals, leading to abnormal heartbeats called arrhythmias.
  • These arrhythmias can weaken the heart’s pumping ability.

Key Points Concerning ARVC

Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the arrhythmia.

  • Somepets might show no signs, while others might experience fainting episodes, weakness, or sudden death.
  • Boxers (ARVC is also called “Boxer cardiomyopathy” sometimes), English bulldogs, bullmastiffs, and even cats can develop ARVC.
  • Diagnosis involves a cardiac workup, including an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect arrhythmias.
  • A Holter monitor, a portable device that records the heart’s electrical activity for 24 hours, is often used to confirm ARVC.

Treatment Options

Multiple medications can assist with the management of the condition.

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs, often beta-blockers, are used to manage arrhythmias.
  • For severe cases, intravenous medications might be necessary.
  • Cats with ARVC may also require medications to manage congestive heart failure (CHF) if it develops.


The prognosis for ARVC varies greatly. Some pets live long lives with minimal treatment, while others may experience sudden death.

Unfortunately, the severity of symptoms doesn’t always predict the risk of sudden death.

Monitoring, Next Steps, and Living with ARVC

Regular checkups and monitoring for signs of heart failure are crucial after an ARVC diagnosis.

  • If you notice any concerning signs like weakness, coughing, lethargy, or breathing difficulties, contact your veterinarian promptly.
  • While ARVC is a serious condition, medication and management can significantly improve your pet’s quality of life.
  • If your pet has been diagnosed with ARVC, discuss all treatment options and the prognosis with your veterinarian.

If you have any concerns about the cardiovascular health of your pet, the best thing you can do is come see us! At Coast to Coast Cardiology, we have ten different locations, but we deliver on one goal no matter what: treating the patient, not just the signs. To make an appointment, contact us online or call 844-582-3827 today.