Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is one of the most common cardiac diseases in dogs. DCM most frequently affects older, male, large breed dogs, such as dobermans, boxers, and st. bernards. But, DCM has also been noted in cocker spaniels. DCM involves the dilation of the cardiac chambers resulting in decreased cardiac output.
The most common clinical signs of DCM include right-sided heart failure consisting of ascites (free fluid in the abdomen), weight loss, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) and abdominal distension. Left-sided heart failure can also occur with DCM resulting in pulmonary edema, coughing, and syncope (collapse episodes).
DCM is diagnosed first by radiographs to determine if the heart is enlarged, followed by an echocardiogram to measure chamber size and cardiac wall thickness. An ECG (electrocardiogram) is also recommended to evaluate for any cardiac rhythm disturbances.
Although there is no cure for DCM, treatment is available with the focus on keeping the patient comfortable, and extending quality of life. Treatment consists of oral cardiac medications and monitoring for response via echocardiogram, ECG and bloodwork.
Prognosis for DCM is guarded with estimated survival times ranging from 6 months to 2 years depending on response to treatment and severity of disease.