Cardiomyopathy in Dogs:
Cardiomyopathy is basically a disease of the heart muscles.
It specifically refers to a deterioration in the condition of the myocardium, and can be due to genetic reasons or due to factors such as a restriction in blood supply (usually what is known as ischemia), hyperthyroidism, or accumulation of iron in the liver. Cardiomyopathy in dogs usually takes the form of dilated cardiomyopathy, in which heart muscle mass increases, the chambers increase in size, and the heart's ability to contract decreases. Due to a decrease in the effectiveness of heart function, the heart has to work harder and harder.
Eventually, this leads to congestive heart failure, while in some cases the heart beat may become irregular and suddenly lead to death.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs Symptoms:
Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs often does not display any symptoms, which is why it often leads to sudden tragedy. However, signs to watch out for include cold paws and legs, weakness and breathlessness with even mild exertion, and unusually pale mucus membranes.
Sometimes, the dog might even faint due to the irregularity of its heart rhythm. Congestive heart failure will cause the veins in the neck to become abnormally distended, while fluid will accumulate in the abdomen, legs, and even in other parts of the body. The dog will also seem uncomfortable and unable to rest, and will often cough a lot. Unfortunately, all these symptoms tend to develop only in the later stages, at which point the dog will usually not survive for longer than a year. In some cases, the condition may be discovered in the course of other medical examinations and investigations, in which case there may be a better chance of treatment and survival.
Causes of Cardiomyopathy in Dogs:
It is not clear why cardiomyopathy occurs, but it seems to be rather common among certain breeds. Dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans is quite a common problem. Cardiomyopathy in boxers is also quite common, and other large breeds such as Great Danes and St Bernards also seem to be susceptible.
Treatment for Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs:
Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs cannot be cured, and treatment typically aims to reduce the clinical symptoms and prolong the life of the dog as much as possible. A variety of medications are used for this purpose, and these must of course be continued throughout the dog's life. Some of the drugs improve the heart's ability to contract and function normally, others dilate blood vessels so that blood flow faces less resistance, and still others control arrhythmias.