We here at IndulgeYourPet choose to write about different medical conditions that could one day affect your loved one because we enjoy taking complex terms like “cardiomyopathy” and breaking them down into more accessible, more understandable concepts.
Since we’re not medical professionals and certainly not veterinarians, we’re not “burdened” with all that scientific jargon that sometimes gets in the way of truly understanding what is happening to our pets.
That said, however, we should also point out that because we’re not medical professionals if you’re concerned that your pet may be currently suffering from a medical condition that may need medical attention… QUIT READING THIS ARTICLE and drive to your nearest veterinarian or pet hospital.
Good… So now let’s get back to the topic at hand: Cardiomyopathy. Now in our experiences here at IndulgeYourPet, we find that often the best way to understand what a particular medical condition is is first to take apart the word that is used to describe it.
In this case, well want to look at “cardio” and “myopathy.”
Cardio: Relating to the heart.
Myopathy: Relating to a disease of muscle tissue.
Which is why…
It should come as too big of a surprise that “cardiomyopathy” refers to disease that affects the heart muscle. And when we apply this definition to working with dogs, we generally find that cardiomyopathy is a term that will usually be used for one of two different conditions:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy,
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,
So now let’s take a moment and briefly examine each of these conditions and see how they may affect the lives of the dogs they affect.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs is characterized by an enlarged heart. With dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart’s upper and lower chambers become enlarged due to having to work “harder” than a normal heart would. In most cases, one side of the heart (depending on the cause of the abnormality) will become more significant than the other upper chamber.
Potential causes of DMC in dogs
Researchers have found that a great many dilated cardiomyopathy cases found in dogs tend to be genetic and have even linked some genetic mutations causing DCM to some dog breeds including:
Other factors that seem to play a role in the development of this condition include:
- Amino acid deficiencies (taurine deficiency),
- Poor thyroid functioning,
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart due to infection),
- Prolonged tachycardia (rapid heartbeat),
Symptoms of DMC in dogs
Many dogs suffering from DMC may be completely asymptomatic which is why in some cases it is only discovered after a patient begins to suffer from complete heart failure or sudden death.
This is why…
It’s so important to be sure that your pet receives their annual check-up so that if symptoms such as:
- Fainting spells,
- Labored breathing,
- and exercise intolerance,
Don’t appear, at least your veterinarian may have a chance of detecting it by noticing an abnormal heartbeat which may trigger your veterinarian to order more extensive testing such as an EKG or chest x-rays which will allow for a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for DMC in dogs
Unfortunately, once your dog has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, there is little that a veterinarian can do to “cure” the condition. Medications and diet recommendations will often be prescribed and recommended however even these will only have a limited effect on the progression of this disease.
This is why…
Early detection is key in avoiding and minimizing the progression of this condition and is why owners of huge dog breeds such as:
Others should always remain vigilant against the possibility of this condition developing in their loved ones.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
It refers to a condition where the heart doesn’t get bigger. Instead, the muscle walls that form the core become thicker. As a result, the heart becomes less proficient during the systolic phase of the heartbeat (which is the phase where blood leaves the heart and goes to the rest of the body).
In dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) we saw that the right and left atrium were most often affected; with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy it is usually the “ventricles” that will be affected the most notably the left ventricle constantly creating left ventricular stiffness as well as mitral valve irregularities as well.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a rare disease affecting dogs, so this is not a condition that many folks will have to deal with. However, for those that do, your dog will likely show clinical signs of their disease which may include:
- Mitral valve regurgitation (mitral regurgitation)
- Chest pain,
- Shortness of breath,
- An aversion to exercise,
- Fainting or dizziness,
- Failure to strive.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing HCM isn’t always an easy process. Exams that typically determine that your dog may have a heat issue often come back wholly standard. Exams such as EKG and blood pressure readings may show no signs of illness.
This is why…
Most dogs diagnosed with HCM aren’t diagnosed until they are suffering from congestive heart failure at which point most of their care will be focused on minimizing their symptoms and the workload on your dog’s heart.
In such cases, your veterinarian will likely prescribe medications (such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics), suggest a healthy diet, and recommend avoiding stressful exercise activities.
This brings us to…
The last thing we want to discuss in our article here today is the idea of purchasing a pet insurance policy for your pet. You see, cardiomyopathy is just one of a million different things that could one day affect the health of your loved one. This is why, for many, a pet insurance policy is a perfect way to protect themselves from receiving any expensive vet bills later on in the future.
Purchasing a pet insurance policy is suitable for everyone? Probably not, but without at least knowing what one might cost, how can you honestly decide if it’s worth it to you?
For more information on who we feel is currently offering some of the best pet insurance policies in the industry, check out our Best Pet Insurance article when you get a chance!