How is cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

X-rays generally show an enlarged heart, predominantly on the left side.
There may however be no abnormalities on radiographs, on physical exam, or on the resting electrogardiogram. A heart scan (echo) is the only way to definitively diagnose DCM. If cardiomyopathy is suspected and all routine diagnostic tests are normal, a 24 hour ambulatory electrocardiogram ( a Holter monitor) is recommended. The unobtrusive monitor is worn by the dog during its normal activities, and records irregular heart rhythms.

How is cardiomyopathy treated?

Decisions about treatment are based on several factors: whether the dog is showing clinical signs such as weakness or collapse, what arrhythmias are seen on the electrocardiogram, and whether congestive heart failure is present. If your dog has an abnormal heart rhythm without any evidence of congestive heart failure, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-arrhythmic drugs, depending on the severity of the arrhythmia.

Episodes of collapse indicate a serious arrhythmia and must be treated as an emergency.
Treatment for dogs with signs of congestive heart failure involves rest, diet restrictions, and drugs to stabilize and support the failing heart as well as to control the arrhythmias. If low doses of anti-arrhythmic drugs are effective, then the heart can often be stabilized. Serious ventricular arrhythmias that can only be controlled by high doses of anti-arrhythmic drugs have a poorer prognosis.

Breeding advice

Affected individuals and their parents should not be used for breeding. Siblings should only be used after careful screening.

How can cardiomyopathy be controlled?

There are ways to approach the control of this disease. Although signs of heart failure are often not evident until middle age, abnormalities on the electrocardiogram are often apparent earlier. Danes with a family history of cardiomyopathy, breeding animals should be evaluated yearly for evidence of cardiac arryhthmias, using an ambulatory (Holter) monitor if possible. Dogs in which occult dilated cardiomyopathy has been identified (ie. no clinical signs) should not be used for breeding.

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