Cardiomyopathy is defined as the deterioration of the heart muscle. The deterioration causes the heart walls to be thinner and the pressure of the blood inside the heart causes these thin walls to stretch resulting in a much larger heart. There are two major types of cardiomyopathy that dogs can suffer from, namely Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), and Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a primary disease of cardiac muscle that results in a decreased ability of the heart to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system and it is the most common cause of heart failure in certain large breeds of dogs. Breeds predisposed to DCM include the Irish Wolfhounds, Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, the Cocker Spaniel, and Saint Bernards.
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy
The major symptoms of cardiomyopathy in dogs include lethargy, anorexia, labored breathing when resting or sleeping (more than 30-35 breaths per minute), increased effort associated with breathing, panting, coughing, abdominal distension, restless sleeping, moving around a lot, and changing positions, weakness, reduced ability to exercise, decreased appetite, weight loss, depressed attitude or quiet and not interactive, sudden collapse or death.
How is DCM diagnosed?
To successfully diagnose DCM, several tests are performed to assess different aspects of heart function. These tests include:
1) Chest Radiographic (X-ray) imaging may reveal that the dog has an enlarged heart as well as fluid in or surrounding the lungs.
2) An electrocardiogram (EKG) may reveal an arrhythmia (or irregular heartbeat) or ventricular tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat). In some cases, a 24-hour EKG (Holter monitor) may be required to be worn around the neck of the dog to fully identify abnormal heart activity.
3) An ultrasound of the heart, known as an echocardiogram, is required to definitively diagnose DCM. In the case of DCM, an echocardiogram will reveal enlargement of one or more heart chambers, along with the decreased contractile ability of the heart muscle.
1) There are several drugs used to treat the symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy such as diuretics (drugs that stimulate the kidneys to remove excess fluid from the body), Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (drugs that lower blood pressure and reduce the after-load or resistance to blood flowing out of the heart, cardiac glycosides (drugs that slow the heart rate and strengthen heart contractions, so the blood is pumped more effectively), vasodilators (drugs that dilate the arteries or veins of the body so that the heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood to the body), bronchodilators (drugs that make breathing easier for dogs experiencing DCM), pimobendane (drugs that lower the pressure in the arteries and veins and improves the heart muscle strength, therefore increasing blood flow to the body and anti-arrhythmic drugs.
2) Stem Cell Therapy: The emergence of stem cells in the treatment of DCM has been unprecedented due to the unique ability of stem cells to develop into one of many different types of cells, including muscle, and then replace cells that are either worn out or dead. In simple terms, stem cell therapy is the injection of these stem cells into the area affected by DCM.
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