Decoding Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dogs: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Home Monitoring

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a progressive weakening and enlargement of the heart muscle chambers in dogs. This weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively, leading to a variety of concerning symptoms.

Coast to Coast Cardiology knows how valuable early detection and monitoring can be, both for improving a dog’s long-term prognosis and helping owners stay involved in the recovery process. Consult the blog below so you can learn the risks, the symptoms, and what to do if your pet’s affected.

Breeds Most at Risk

Certain dog breeds are predisposed to DCM, including:

  • Doberman Pinschers,
  • Great Danes, Boxers,
  • Irish Wolfhounds,
  • Saint Bernards.

However, DCM can affect any breed, and early diagnosis is vital for all dogs.

Symptoms to Watch For

Common signs of DCM in dogs include:

  • Exercise intolerance: Difficulty keeping up on walks or playtime.
  • Lethargy: Increased tiredness or lack of energy.
  • Coughing: Especially at night.
  • Difficulty breathing: Rapid, shallow breaths.
  • Weight loss: Due to decreased appetite or fluid buildup.
  • Ascites: Fluid accumulation in the abdomen.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention immediately. Early diagnosis through various tests, including chest X-rays, echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), and blood analyses, is vital for initiating treatment.

Treatment for DCM typically focuses on managing the underlying cause and alleviating symptoms. This may involve medications like:

  • Diuretics: To reduce fluid buildup in the lungs and abdomen.
  • ACE inhibitors: To help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.
  • Beta-blockers: To slow the heart rate and decrease workload.

In some cases, additional medications or therapies may be required.

Home Monitoring for Optimal Care

While your veterinarian will closely monitor your dog throughout their treatment plan, there are crucial steps you can take at home to observe your dog and contribute to their well-being:

  • Rest Restriction: Limit strenuous activity, especially if your dog exhibits exercise intolerance.
  • Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight for your dog to minimize strain on the heart.
  • Track Respiratory Rate: Counting your dog’s resting breaths at home can be a valuable tool in identifying changes that might warrant a veterinary visit.
  • Observe for New or Worsening Symptoms: Be mindful of any changes in your dog’s behavior or energy levels.

DCM can be a challenging condition for dogs, but early diagnosis and a combination of veterinary treatment and at-home monitoring can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life. If you have any concerns about your dog’s heart health, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.

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.