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Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Dilated Cardiomyopathy

How Dilated Cardiomyopathy Affects Dogs

Many dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) seem to be unaffected by their serious heart condition, or at least they often show no outward signs of discomfort or distress. However, when DCM becomes clinical – which means that observable signs of the condition exist – affected animals usually have respiratory difficulties which we can only assume are uncomfortable at best, and extremely painful and frightening at worst.

Symptoms of Dilated Cardiomyopathy

As mentioned above, many dogs with DCM do not show any noticeable symptoms of their disease. When this is the case, they are said to have preclinical dilated cardiomyopathy. When symptoms of the condition do occur, they typically are the same as those associated with congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart beats). These include one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea; respiratory distress)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Coughing (may or not have blood in the sputum; coughing is especially common at night)
  • Abnormal heart sounds (murmurs)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Abnormal breath/lung sounds (from fluid build-up around the heart and lungs; pleural effusion; pulmonary edema)
  • Vomiting
  • Nasal discharge
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
  • Weight loss (often rapid and marked)
  • Exercise intolerance (tires easily)
  • Distended/swollen abdomen (ascites)
  • Fainting (syncope; temporary suspension of consciousness due to cerebral anemia - lack of blood supply to the brain)
  • Sudden death

Dogs at Increased Risk

Middle-aged large and giant breed dogs have an increased risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy. Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Burmese Mountain Dogs, Afghan Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Portuguese Water Dogs, Springer Spaniels, Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to this disorder, which seems to be more common in males.

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