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Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs

What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease that is largely characterized by the dilation and weakening of the heart muscles, which renders the pumping action ineffective.

The dilation and the enlargement of the chambers of the heart cause the contracting action to reduce significantly. Over a period of time, there is an overload on the heart, which causes the valves of the chambers to malfunction. As the disease progresses, there is an increase in the dilation, which spreads all over the heart.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is an extremely common condition and is one of the leading causes of congestive heart failure in dogs. In its advanced stages, the disorder can cause the heart valves to leak, causing murmuring of the heart with every beat. There is also abnormal electrical activity in the heart which causes arrhythmias.
Larger and giant dog breeds are highly susceptible to developing this disorder.

Male dogs are more prone to this condition than female dogs. Though this condition is mostly seen in large dog breed, some smaller breeds like the English cocker spaniel are also known to suffer from it. The disease is of a genetic nature in breeds like the Dobermans, wolfhounds, Portuguese water dogs and Newfoundlands.

Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy:

Though the symptoms of cardiomyopathy in dogs are not very apparent, there are certain signs that can indicate heart problems in dogs. Shortness of breath, inability to exercise, inactivity, recurrent collapsing, lethargy, coughing, and loss of appetite are some of the signs of cardiomyopathy.
Diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy:
The doctor may order several diagnostic tests for your dog. These tests help the doctors to exclude all other similar ailments and treat your dog correctly. Some of these tests are X-rays of the thoracic cavity, arterial blood pressure, electrocardiogram, packed cell volume, physical examination, complete blood count, and serum cultures to eliminate probability of thromboembolism and other heart and blood complications.

Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy:

The treatment of this condition depends on the stage of advancement. The doctor may prescribe drug therapy for your dog. However, if the dog is at a very advanced stage, it may be administered oxygen and diuretics. Hospitalization may also be necessary. There have to be substantial changes in the diet as well. The sodium intake is brought down considerably.

Home Care for Dilated Cardiomyopathy:

The dog will need to be taken to the vet on a regular basis so that the condition can be monitored. Observe your pet when it is relaxing and report any changes in its breathing rhythm or any bouts of coughing.

  Submitted on May 7, 2010  

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