Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease that affects the heart muscle. DCM most commonly affects medium to large breed dogs, such as Dobermans, Boxers, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, Great Danes, St Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds.
DCM is characterised by two phases, a long and ‘silent’ preclinical phase where the dog will appear normal and healthy and then a shorter clinical phase, i.e. heart failure, when the dog appears ill or might suddenly die. The preclinical phase is important because, although your pet may look healthy, the changes of heart disease have already begun and this is the time to start treatment.
In DCM, the heart muscle gradually becomes weakened and floppy. The heart enlarges and stretches, and becomes very inefficient at pumping blood around the body. Because the heart’s ability to pump is impaired, circulation is also impaired. A dog with DCM can often live with the problem for a period of time as the body naturally makes adjustments to cope with the changes. However, at some point, the disease exceeds the body’s ability to cope, and the dog will become unwell and shows signs of heart failure.