Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Aimee Beck
5 min readDec 30, 2022

When your dog has dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), his heart can no longer maintain enough pressure to properly pump blood through his vascular system to the rest of his body. It’s a very dangerous-often fatal-disease among medium and large sized dogs. In fact, it’s the most common cause of heart failure in certain large breed dogs.

Before we get into the more complex details about DCM, let’s break it down into simpler terms.

  • Cardiac (or cardio) means relating to the heart.
  • Myopathy refers to diseases that affect skeletal muscles.
  • Cardiomyopathy means degeneration of the heart muscles.

When this happens, the heart muscle wall-primarily the thick muscle wall of the left ventricle-becomes thinner and stretches under the pressure of blood flow, which causes the heart to become enlarged. This condition is called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

What Causes Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy?

The definitive cause of canine dilated cardiomyopathy is up for debate, however, nutritional, infectious, and genetic predisposition could be key factors.

Small dogs rarely develop DCM, and it’s more common in males than females. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is typically seen in large and giant breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds (among others).

According to the FDA, dilated cardiomyopathy is also seen in Cocker Spaniels associated with taurine deficiency. “We suspect that cases are underreported because animals are typically treated symptomatically, and diagnostic testing and treatment can be complex and costly to owners.”

Image source: FDA.gov

When it comes to genetic forms of DCM, mid- to senior-aged male large and giant breed dogs are often affected.

In terms of dietary or nutritional causes of DCM, dry dog food formulas greatly outweighed wet, moist, and raw foods. Read Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy Complaints Submitted to FDA-CVM Through April

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Aimee Beck

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