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Canine Cardiomyopathy

Canine Cardiomyopathy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Canine cardiomyopathy in dogs is a common cardiac disease affecting heart muscles. The two main effects of cardiomyopathy are loss of contractility and inefficient blood pumping. 

The main three canine cardiomyopathies include dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy (ARVC). DCM is the prevalent type in dogs. 

Panting, trouble breathing, restlessness, coughing, exercise intolerance, ascites, and behavioral problems are standard DCM in dogs symptoms

Dog cardiomyopathy is diagnosed through echocardiography and chest X-rays. The treatment depends on the severity of the condition and includes medications like pimobendan, enalapril, and furosemide. 

The answer to “What is cardiomyopathy in dogs?” is a heart enlargement followed by inefficient blood pumping. Heart enlargement is visible on diagnostic tests, and a loss of pumping efficiency is present in the clinical symptoms. 

Preventing cardiomyopathies is impossible, but annual screening in high-risk dog breeds helps catch the disease early. 

What is Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

Canine cardiomyopathy in dogs is a condition affecting the heart muscles. The effect of cardiomyopathy is loss of heart contractility, resulting in impaired blood pumping. 

The heart’s primary function is pumping blood to deliver oxygen to all parts of the dog’s body. The heart must be durable enough to overcome gravity and the tone of the blood vessels. 

Cardiomyopathies harm the heart’s ability to contract and pump blood. Dilated cardiomyopathy enlarges the heart while thinning its walls. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy makes the heart walls thick. Arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy replaces the normal heart cells of the right ventricle with fibrous or fat tissue cells. 

Dilated cardiomyopathy is common, especially among large and giant breed dogs, while hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy are infrequent. 

What part of a Dog's Heart is prone to Canine Cardiomyopathy?

The ventricles are the part of a dog’s heart prone to canine cardiomyopathy. The heart comprises two upper chambers called atria and two lower chambers or ventricles. 

Canine cardiomyopathy mainly affects the ventricles and the atria in rare cases. The heart’s upper and lower chambers are made of muscle, and cardiomyopathy, as the term implies, is a muscle condition. 

Knowing the heart anatomy in dogs is vital for understanding how cardiomyopathies in dogs work and what to expect.

What are the different types of cardiomyopathy in dogs?

The different types of cardiomyopathy in dogs are listed below. 

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): Dilated cardiomyopathy is ventricle dilation and thinning of the ventricular walls frequently seen in large dog breeds. 
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a rare disease in which the heart walls thicken, making it unable to pump blood efficiently. 
  • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC): Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy is a rare heart disease that causes arrhythmias and impaired blood pumping. 

1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a widespread heart disease in which the heart enlarges and its walls thinner. The changed heart structure lowers the blood pumping efficiency. 

DCM is prevalent in large-breed dogs, including Newfoundlands, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, and Boxers. Portuguese Water Dogs, English Springer Spaniels, and Cocker Spaniels are smaller breeds predisposed to dilated cardiomyopathy. 

Dilated cardiomyopathy is progressive and leads to congestive heart failure (CHF), which is life-threatening. Dogs with DCM require life-long management with medication and nutritional therapy.

2. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition where the walls of the lower heart chambers (ventricles) become hypertrophied or abnormally thick. 

The thickened walls lose the ability to pump blood and lead to congestive heart failure. Telltale signs include shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing, and bluish gum discoloration. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is extremely rare in canines and mainly affects Boston Terriers. Exercise restriction, low-sodium diets, and medications manage dogs with HCM. 

3. Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) in dogs is a primary heart muscle disease in which heart tissue is replaced by fibrous and adipose (fat) tissue. 

ARVC is an adult-onset type of inherited genetic disease with symptoms manifesting later in life. The condition is prevalent in Boxers, with English Bulldogs and American Staffordshire Terriers affected somewhat.

The effects of ARVC range from mild and asymptomatic arrhythmias to sudden cardiac death. Treatment options include medications and nutritional supplements, but the prognosis is poor. 

What is the cause of a heart murmur?

The causes of cardiomyopathy are listed below. 

  • Genetics: Genetics is the main cause of cardiomyopathies. Dilated and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy is considered genetic in certain breeds. 
  • Dietary Factors: Veterinarians theorize a connection between grain-free foods and an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy. Further research is needed to establish if the issue is the lack of grains or the use of alternative protein sources like legumes. 
  • Arrhythmias: Certain forms of cardiomyopathy, like arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy, are associated with arrhythmias, but their role in the problem’s etiology is unknown. 
  • Systemic Conditions: The answer to “What causes cardiomyopathy in dogs” is sometimes due to systemic infectious conditions and endocrine imbalances, such as hypothyroidism.  

Is cardiomyopathy in dogs genetic?

Yes, cardiomyopathy in dogs is genetic. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a genetic condition common in large and giant breed dogs. 

Predisposed breeds include Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and Doberman Pinschers. DCM is rarely hereditary in certain small Spaniel-type dogs. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) has an unknown origin. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is proven to be genetic in Boxers.

What age do dogs typically develop cardiomyopathy?

Dogs typically develop cardiomyopathy between the ages of four and ten. Cardiomyopathies develop earlier in some cases but are asymptomatic. 

Dogs without apparent symptoms exhibit clinical signs of cardiomyopathy six months to two years after diagnosis. 

Labored breathing and exercise intolerance are common signs to watch. Dogs predisposed to cardiomyopathies must be assessed annually to ensure early diagnosis.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

The symptoms of cardiomyopathy in dogs are listed below. 

  • Rapid Breathing: Rapid breathing, or panting, is an increased breathing rate equal to more than 30 to 35 breaths per minute. 
  • Trouble Breathing: Dogs with cardiomyopathies have difficulty breathing and adopt unusual stances for easier air intake. 
  • Restlessness: The labored breathing makes dogs uncomfortable, and they are unable to sit or lie down. 
  • Coughing: Hacking or coughing is commonly seen in dogs with cardiomyopathy in early and advanced stages. 
  • Exercise Intolerance: Dogs with cardiomyopathy lose stamina and are unable to perform physical tasks. 
  • Ascites: Ascites or distended abdomen occurs when fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity and is one of the most common advanced cardiomyopathy in dogs symptoms.  
  • Behavior Changes: Loss of appetite, withdrawal, and increased sleepiness are common behavioral symptoms of cardiomyopathy in dogs

Are there any early warning signs that owners should watch for?

Yes, there are early warning signs owners should watch for. The first sign of cardiomyopathy in dogs is labored, heavy breathing.

Dogs with cardiomyopathy tire quickly and start panting when physically challenged. Advanced cardiomyopathy causes breathing difficulties even when the dog is not physically active. Consult a vet immediately if a dog pants for no apparent reason.

Can heart murmurs be an early sign of canine cardiomyopathy?

No, heart murmurs cannot be an early sign of canine cardiomyopathy. Heart murmurs occur in some dogs if the heart is significantly dilated, which causes the valves to leak blood, resulting in heart murmurs. 

Heart murmurs are an early warning sign of chronic valvular disease (CVD). CVD is prevalent in Dachshunds, Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

How does Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs Diagnosed?

Canine cardiomyopathy in dogs is diagnosed with radiography (X-rays), electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and cardiac biomarkers. 

Chest radiography or X-rays show heart enlargement, especially on the left side, and a change in shape.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) checks the heart rate. The vet sometimes requires the dog to wear a portable ECG or Holter monitor to assess its heartbeat over 24 hours. 

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound examination of the heart that allows precise measurement of the size of the heart chambers and the thickness of the heart walls. 

Cardiac biomarkers, like Cardiac Troponin I and ProBNP, measure the levels of specific proteins in the body standard for structural heart changes. 

Other tests include heart auscultation (to check for murmurs) and blood and urine tests (to evaluate the dog's overall health).

How long can Dogs live with Canine Cardiomyopathy?

Dogs can live for six months or a couple of years with canine cardiomyopathy. Life expectancy depends on the severity and progression of the condition. 

Asymptomatic dogs develop clinical symptoms in one to four years. Dogs diagnosed with cardiomyopathy show signs within several months of diagnosis. 

Dogs with mild cardiomyopathy live for several years if properly managed with medications. Advanced cases that progress to heart failure have a poor prognosis, with dogs living for only six to twelve months.

Can Dogs Die with Canine Cardiomyopathy?

Yes, dogs can die with canine cardiomyopathy. Dog cardiomyopathy is potentially fatal, with prognosis varying among dogs. 

Cardiomyopathy in dogs leads to heart failure, a condition in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood through the body efficiently.

The standard life expectancy for dogs with cardiomyopathy is six months to two years following diagnosis. Doberman Pinschers are particularly sensitive and die within three months of diagnosis. 

What Dog Breeds Are Prone to Canine Cardiomyopathy?

Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, Doberman Pinschers, English Bulldogs, and Cocker Spaniels are dog breeds prone to canine cardiomyopathy. 

Different types of cardiomyopathies are more common in specific breeds. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) occurs in large to giant breeds and sometimes in Spaniels. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is rare and almost exclusively seen in Boston Terriers. Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) develops in Boxers, English Bulldogs, and American Staffordshire Terriers.

What are the Treatments for Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

The treatments for canine cardiomyopathy in dogs are listed below. 

  • Inotropic Medications: Inotropic drugs improve the heart muscle’s contraction strength and facilitate proper blood pumping. Pimobendan is the leading inotropic medication for dogs with cardiomyopathy. 
  • ACE Inhibitors: ACE inhibitors expand the blood vessels to reduce the resistance and make it easier for the heart to pump blood. Commonly used options are enalapril or benazepril
  • Beta Blockers: Sotalol, atenolol, and carvedilol are beta-blockers that act as potent anti-arrhythmogenic agents and help stabilize the dog’s heart rhythm. 
  • Diuretics: Diuretics promote fluid elimination and are used in dogs with cardiomyopathy to remove fluid accumulation from the lungs and promote easier breathing. 
  • Bronchodilators or Cough Suppressants: Dogs with cardiomyopathy are prescribed theophylline (a bronchodilator) and hydrocodone or butorphanol (a cough suppressant) to support easier breathing. 
  • Diet Modifications: Dogs with cardiomyopathy benefit from low-sodium diets rich in antioxidants, taurine, carnitine, and coenzyme Q10. Commercially available diets for cardiac support in dogs. 

How can CBD Products help treat Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

CBD products can help treat canine cardiomyopathy through their natural health-boosting properties. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a hemp extract that interacts with the endocannabinoid system and promotes natural wellness. 

Dogs with cardiomyopathies benefit from CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation, which minimizes future heart damage. Cannabidiol helps reduce pain, relieve stress, increase food intake, and support healthy sleep. 

CBD oil is not a cure for cardiomyopathy but a supplemental treatment. Consult the veterinarian before using cannabidiol for dogs with heart problems. CBD oil is safe to use, and the dog does not experience any side effects, such as feeling high when it is applied.

How Much Does it Cost to Treat Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

It costs an average of $500 to $1,000 and beyond to treat canine cardiomyopathy in dogs. The initial diagnosis, including physical examination, chest radiographs, and echocardiogram, costs hundreds of dollars. 

Regular maintenance therapy with medications and monitoring costs $50 to $200 monthly. Prescription dog foods for heart conditions are approximately $85 per 17-pound bag. 

The exact cost of cardiomyopathy treatment depends on the living location, the severity of the cardiomyopathy, and the dog's size.

Can Dogs with Canine Cardiomyopathy be treated at home?

No, dogs with canine cardiomyopathy cannot be treated at home. Canine cardiomyopathy is life-threatening and requires professional medical treatment and veterinary assessment. 

Home remedies are a helpful supplement to the veterinary treatment of dogs with cardiomyopathies when used correctly. 

Popular options include supplements and herbs. CBD oil, L-carnitine, and coenzyme Q10 are supplement examples, while hawthorn, dandelion, parsley, ginger, and cayenne are beneficial herbs.

Is it possible to prevent Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

No, it is not possible to prevent canine cardiomyopathy in dogs. Cardiomyopathy is considered genetic, and it is not preventable. Certain measures help reduce the risk of early-onset heart problems. 

The main measure is providing dogs with a healthy diet rich in quality, animal-based protein sources containing a wide spectrum of amino acids. 

The second measure is practicing annual screenings, especially in dogs at high risk of developing cardiomyopathies. 

Pet owners asking “How to prevent cardiomyopathy in dogs” must consult a veterinarian for individually tailored prevention tips.

What is the Prognosis of Canine Cardiomyopathy in Dogs?

The prognosis of canine cardiomyopathy in dogs is poor. "Overall prognosis was poor, with survival rates of 17.5% at one year and 7.5% at two years," reports a study "Survival and prognostic factors in 189 dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy" published in JAAHA in 1997.

The study explains that the exact prognosis in individual cases is difficult to predict. The age of onset, time of diagnosis, severity or symptoms, and response to treatment are the top factors influencing the prognosis. 

Dogs with cardiomyopathy generally die six months to two years after a diagnosis is made, except for Doberman Pinschers, who are prone to early and sudden death.