Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the second most common type of heart disease in dogs, typically affecting large breed dogs.
In DCM, the heart muscle gradually becomes weakened and stretched. As a result the heart becomes enlarged and inefficient at pumping blood around the body. Dogs with DCM can often live with the problem for months or years in the ‘pre-clinical’ phase with no obvious signs of ill health, as the body makes adjustments to cope with these changes.
Over time, the weak heart muscle will cause the heart’s function to deteriorate. This stage, known as congestive heart failure, is when the heart is no longer able to pump sufficient blood around the body. The dog may start to cough, struggle with exercise or even faint.
Breeds that are most at risk of DCM include: Doberman Pincher, Great Dane, Boxer, German Shepherd, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound and St Bernard.
As well as listening to your dog’s heart, we can perform a simple blood test to check for levels of pro-BNP; a substance which is released into the bloodstream when the heart muscle stretches excessively, such as in dogs with DCM. High levels of this substance in the blood are a good indicator that your dog may have DCM and that an ultrasound of the heart should be performed.
New research has shown that identifying and treating these dogs in the silent ‘pre-clinical’ phase can help to delay the onset of heart failure and lengthen life.
In order to encourage screening we are currently offering this blood test free of charge until October 31st 2016. If you have an ‘at risk’ breed of dog over the age of 3, please contact the clinic to make an appointment.