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Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dobermans

Posted September 26, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?
“UpcloseDifferent types of heart disease are characterized by which part of the heart is abnormal or affected and in what way. In the case of cardiomyopathy, the abnormality involves the heart muscles itself. In dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), specifically, the muscle wall of the heart becomes thin which results in a bigger but weaker heart that is not efficient at pumping blood. Click here to learn more about dilated cardiomyopathy basics.

Are Dobermans at a greater risk for dilated cardiomyopathy?
In dogs, DCM occurs at a higher incidence in specific breeds including the Doberman pinscher. While there are likely multiple factors that combine to produce clinical DCM, the fact that the disorder occurs at a higher incidence in specific breeds has always suggested that there is a heritable genetic component to this disease, says Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Testing for dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans
Dr. Kathryn Meurs, of NC State, has identified one gene mutation that is responsible for the disease. However, since there could be other mutations involved as well, research is ongoing. For now, though, you can have your Doberman tested for the presence of this one mutation. You just need to keep in mind that a negative test does not completely rule out the possibility of your dog developing DCM (since I already mentioned that there are likely other factors and/or mutations involved). Also, a positive test does not always mean your dog will develop the disease.

Regardless of any genetic test results, to protect your dog, awareness and vigilance are the key.

Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans
The symptoms of DCM depend on which ‘form’ of the disease manifests. Some dogs develop congestive heart failure as the weakened muscle fails to adequately propel blood forward, resulting in:

Pressure and fluid backs up into the lungs causing:

Or even into the abdomen causing:

  • Distension
  • Liver dysfunction.

Some dogs develop cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal beats and irregular rhythms) that can cause sudden death1.

Diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans
Your veterinarian can listen to your dog’s heart and lungs to detect some abnormalities, but more sophisticated testing is far more accurate in identifying problems, especially early on in the disease. EKG tracings can be performed over an entire 24 hour period using a special Holter monitor

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.