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What is Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy)?

With dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) the heart muscle becomes thinner than normal, is weakened, and results in poor pumping ability, valve leakage and arrhythmia. This loss of the heart’s ability to properly contract is a common acquired disease of the heart in dogs. It is predominantly seen in male middle-aged canines. Large breed dogs are most predisposed but many other dogs are known to be susceptible. The large breed dogs are the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane, Scottish Deerhound, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland Retriever, Saint Bernard, and German Shepherd. In addition, Dalmatians, Welsh Corgi, Tibetan Terriers, and Spaniels (specifically American Cocker, English Cocker, and Springer) are prone to acquiring an enlarged heart.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weak. Loss of ability to contract is a main component of the condition, affecting both left and right sides of the heart. The chambers of the heart (atria and ventricles) are put under great strain due to enlargement and impairment of function.

Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) Average Cost

From 39 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

The signs of dilated cardiomyopathy can vary from pet to pet depending on the stage of the disease. If you see your canine companion exhibit any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian for an appointment, or if needed seek assistance at the emergency clinic.

  • Exercise is becoming difficult to manage
  • He tires easily
  • He is reluctant to partake in activity
  • He is panting excessively
  • He coughs or clears his throat often
  • He appears weak
  • There has been an episode of fainting
  • Weight loss is apparent
  • His abdomen seems enlarged (fluid accumulation can cause this)
  • His breathing is heavy

In later stages of dilated cardiomyopathy, your pet will have additional signs of discomfort.

  • Reluctance to lie down
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to get comfortable
  • Collapse

Unfortunately, with this condition, sudden death may occur.

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Causes of Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

An enlarged heart is an acquired condition; the specific cause is presently unknown. Factors that are thought to contribute are as follows.

  • Breed disposition
  • Low thyroid
  • Prolonged arrhythmias
  • Ischemia
  • Amino acid deficiencies (typically taurine and carnitine)
  • Toxicity
  • Infection

As a result of these causes congestion, edema, and effusion lead to heart failure.

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Diagnosis of Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

When you bring your canine companion to the veterinarian for his appointment, a physical examination may alert your veterinarian to the heart issue right away. Upon listening to the heart, she could hear abnormal sounds like a murmur or arrhythmia. Your dog’s pulse could be weak. 

These signs will indicate that further investigation is warranted. There are a few tests that can be ordered which are very accurate in diagnosing a condition such as dilated cardiomyopathy. Chest radiographs can show that your dog’s heart is most likely enlarged, which is a benchmark sign of this type of heart ailment. An electrocardiogram can confirm the existence of arrhythmia and irregularities with the left atrium and ventricle. The use of an ultrasound and quite possibly a 24 hour Holter monitor can give more information on the state of inflammation and blood flow of the heart.

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Treatment of Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

If there is an underlying condition contributing to the dilated cardiomyopathy, treatment can be greatly improved with concurrent therapy. In the case of amino acid or enzyme disturbances, supplementation (for example taurine) has been shown to help improve changes that are occurring in the heart. 

Delaying the progression of the enlarged heart and the symptoms that result is key because dilated cardiomyopathy has no cure. The therapy chosen will be to give comfort to your dog and to slow the changes associated with the disease. Medication to aid in the contraction of the heart muscle, diuretics to decrease fluid retention, and drugs to stabilize heart rhythm are essential to treatment. The response of your pet to these therapies will depend on his age and how advanced the condition was at time of diagnosis.

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Recovery of Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in Dogs

The prognosis for canines diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy is guarded. The condition usually progresses fairly quickly but depending on the stage at time of discovery as well as the breed of your dog may determine the outcome. Dogs survive from a few months to a few years, with the average being around one year after symptoms are seen. As the disease progresses, the medications your pet is taking will need to be adjusted. Follow up appointments will be required to monitor the condition of the heart. Blood tests must be done at regular intervals to check on the effects of medication on kidney function. Keep in contact with your veterinarian, and do not hesitate to call her her or take your pet to the clinic if you feel his condition is changing, or if he is showing signs of advanced heart problems.

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Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) Average Cost

From 39 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Doberman Pinscher

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8-9

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dcm

Dx'd with DCM recently. My question is: before the dx, she was walking 2-3 miles twice a day with off leash running as well. (weather dependent) Now after knowing she has dcm, how much exercise should she get daily? She enjoys walking more than eating.

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. She may be able to walk the same distance, although it may take her longer. I would let her tell you what kind of exercise she needs, and maybe start off slow and gradually build up to where she can tell you when she's tired. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 14, 2020

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J

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Labrador Retriever

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite

Hello, Our 9 year old male Labrador 58kgs (127 pounds), was diagnosed with DCM in novemver 2017. He has been on Pomibendan 1(tab), Lasix (2 tabs) and envas (2 tabs) twice daily for 9 months now. But this week he has been having loss of appetite and having shivers. He refuses to walk more than few yards. i am scared as I am writing this.... Tried giving renal diet and urgent care food, he is still dull and breathing heavily. Please suggest your opinion..

July 31, 2018

J's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

If J is having breathing difficulties you should return to your Veterinarian regardless; being treated with Vetmedin (pimobendan), Lasix (furosemide) and Envas (enalapril) shows that J has congestive heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy and it may be that he requires an adjustment to treatment. However, without examining him myself I cannot say for certain. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

Thanks Doctor Callum, We took him to the vet. He took his temperature and it was 104.5 in the morning. IV fluids with Cefotaxime inj was given , I think some fever medicines were given too.Only after 10-15 ml of IV he developed shivers and it was stopped. Then we brought him back and have been force feeding with urgent care food. he had 1/2 a can . By evening the temperature was 102.3. He is showing very slow movements and unable to walk properly. My heart aches so bad, i've been unable to work or do anything. Please suggest how we can get him to eat and become normal.. Its almost 2am he is sleeping in one same position for hours. then I shifted him a bit , then he walked a few yards. Showing lack of strength and appetite.Please suggest your opinion..

Aug. 1, 2018

J's Owner

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Buddy

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Golden Retriever

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Coughing
Panting
Winded
Tired Easily

I have a golden retriever we estimate is 9-10 years old (he is a rescue). My dog has not been himself. He is usually clingy and stays by my side. He has been distant and laying around. He struggles to go for walks and tires easily. He gets winded very easily. We have noticed his tongue turning purplish and his gums becoming pale. He also has a cough that ends with a gag like he tries to clear his throat. He had a chest X-ray and his right atrium looked enlarged and his lungs looked streaky. Medications haven't been helping much. How do you know what steps should be taken next or when there isn't anything you can do? Does he have DCM? Thanks.

July 31, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Generally we look at the symptoms and the results of x-rays and echocardiogram, I would be looking at doing an echocardiogram to get a better picture of the condition and to make some measurements of the heart size, function of the valves among other parameters. Treatment starts off with ACE inhibitors (enalapril) if there is evidence of hypotension, diuretics (furosemide) if there is evidence of fluid accumulation and Vetmedin (pimobendan) if there are issues with heart contractility with symptoms of congestive heart failure from dilated cardiomyopathy. Without examining Buddy I cannot confirm the diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Kado

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Bichon Frise

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Hello- Kado is 12 Years old and was just diagnosed with having an enlarged heart and he also has a little bit of liquid in his lungs- we are waiting on the results of the echogram to give us more information- he is still full of energy eats all his food and drinks water- we take him on a 3 walks a day. Any and all advise would be great. He had an x-ray done and his heart is larger then they would like. is their anything we can do as far as diet or anything else to help with this diagnoses. We are all very upset over this.

July 30, 2018

Kado's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

In these cases it is important to ensure that all results come back before starting a treatment plan; generally treatment may consist of ACE inhibitors and diuretics but any treatment would depend on the severity of the symptoms and how Kado responds, for dilated cardiomyopathy your Veterinarian may also prescribe Vetmedin (pimobendan) if Kado is presenting with symptoms of congestive heart failure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Paco

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Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

One Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Jul 12, 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a warning to pet owners: "Pet food containing peas, lentils, other legumes and potatoes might be causing heart disease in dogs". I'm very concern about this news because my baby Pom Paco is a little over a year now and he has eaten this kind of food since very young... https://wagwalking.com/condition/enlarged-heart-dilated-cardiomyopathy His vet suspected enlarged heart six months ago. Paco was sent to the cardiologist but besides an enlarged heart she couldn't find anything else. She attributed it to the amount of exercise he was doing. She said "athletes have enlarged hearts". Please advice I'm heartbroken!

July 22, 2018

Paco's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

For now we cannot say for certain, the FDA has advised this based on a trend that has been seen in non predisposed breeds on diets containing peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes as their main ingredients (note it says main ingredients in the full statement) developing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM); the instructions are: “We encourage pet owners and veterinarians to report DCM cases in dogs who are not predisposed to the disease.” You should discuss this with your Veterinarian further. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/fdainbrief/ucm613355.htm www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-12/dog-food-with-legumes-tied-to-pet-heart-disease-fda-says

July 22, 2018

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Bunny

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Seizures
Coughing
Panting
Grey Tongue

Our female Chihuahua was 12 when she had a seizure. A visit to the vet found a stage 3 murmur, enlarged heart, and fluid on the heart. After a month of a diuretic, pain meds with an anti-seixure side-effecg, and Vetmedin she is only on Vetmedin. That was May 2019. Now in Feb 2020, she is 13. Still on Vetmedin. Two small seizures since. Coughing has worsened. Sleeps alot. Very inactive. Low appetite. I am noticing her tongue is not as pink as it use to be. Seems to be related to low oxygen delivery due to her heart. Anything else I can ask for to comfort her?

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Milo

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Newfoundland

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Milo has a cough and was always panting so I took him vets. The vet put him on line 40 mg tablets the cough went so we stopped the tablets the cough came back in two days we put him back on them then on Friday he went for a heart scan which confirmed dcm he is in both sets of meds now I’ve been told he could only have months to live I’ve not stopped crying he has only just turned 7 and he’s my baby is there anything else I can do to keep him longer I love him so much

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Sadie

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Poodle

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

My 13 year old poodle was diagnosed with heart disease last year she been on meds. She has had 3 seizures during that time. Last weeks blood shows her kidney functions are a little high but coughing has gotten worse each day. So if her heart is enlarged could trachea be causing her to cough really bad. They want to do another angiogram but I’m thinking how will that show what med should be changed. You would think that the blood work would do that.

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Candy

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Miniature Pinscher

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13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Weezing
Patellar Luxation
Collapsed Trachea
Limited Ability
Arthritis
Restlesness
Pulmonary Edema
Enlarged Heart

So my dog age 13 was just diagnosed 2 weeks ago with Dilated cardiomyopathy and severe arthritis in her back and back hips, along with pulmonary edema. We have started her on a cocktail of meds and trying to keep her comfortable. She continued to cough/hack and at her weekly follow up i explained to vet that she still has a bad cough. So he did further test and now has diagnosed her with collapsed trachea disease. So she is now getting shots regularly for this. I am just thinking to myself is this really helping her? Or am i just prolonging her suffering with all of this medication for my own selfish reasons? The vet tells me that with these kinds of medications some dogs live months to years after diagnosis. Oh and to top it off she has severe Patellar Luxation and has had 2 surgeries that helped but did not fix the problem. I don't really know where to go from here?

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Bella

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Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

I was just told that my 14 y/o maltipoo has an enlarged heart. I've been referred to a Vet Cardiologist for further evaluation. My dog is very active & spry for her age even given this condition. She still eats/drinks regularly, plays with our other dogs. The only symptom I see is the coughing. She is on Soloxine for her thyroid & has been for years, most of her life. Could this be the contributing factor for this diagnosis?

Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) Average Cost

From 39 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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