Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes enlarged heart chambers, leaky heart valves, and poor pumping ability. While the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is not clear, it is frequently seen in older, large-breed dogs such as dobermans, great danes, and saint bernards. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of congestive heart failure in dogs.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy Symptoms
Dilated cardiomyopathy can take months or years to develop and your dog may show no symptoms until the condition becomes severe. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Fatigue/Exercise intolerance
- Gagging or coughing
- Edema (fluid collecting in the abdomen or body tissues)
- Lack of appetite
If your dog suddenly exhibits the following symptoms, it may be a sign of heart failure:
- Blue tongue
- Excessive drooling
- Rapid and/or heavy breathing
Dilated Cardiomyopathy Treatment
If you suspect dilated cardiomyopathy in your dog, the veterinarian will conduct a cardiac exam that may involve chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram, and/or a cardiac (heart) ultrasound (echocardiogram).
Dogs that have developed congestive heart failure secondary to dilated cardiomyopathy are given diuretics, such as Salix, to remove excess fluid. Depending on the stage of the disease, your dog may also be treated with other cardiac medications such as ACE inhibitors, which dilate the veins and/or arteries and Pimobendan, which can improve heart muscle function.
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