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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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Romeo

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

12 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

My 12 year old Shihtzu was diagnosed with severe heart failure. I asked the Vet if it was last stages and he said it's not quite there yet but anything can happen. Currently he's on water pills and benazapril, and takes hydrocodone for his cough. The Vet is going to prescribe Vetmedin for him as well. My question is, how long do dogs live with this realistically? His heart failure seemed to progress fast, it was only a year ago that we found out he had mitral valve insufficiency but it was compensated. I guess I always knew that heart failure would eventually develop but was not prepared for this. He seems happy but rests a lot, and coughs a lot at night. Vet said to limit his walks, keep him out of the sun, and don't let him climb stairs. Is there anything else I can do to prolong his life? I'm so scared this is all I can think about. He's part of our family and we love our little Romeo so much.

July 11, 2018

Romeo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is difficult to give a specific time frame for life expectancy as there are many variables, however as I started to read your question I was thinking why isn’t Romeo on Vetmedin (pimobendan) then I saw that your Veterinarian is going to prescribe it. Dog do typically well on Vetmedin, ACE inhibitors and diuretics; but I cannot give you any assurance on life expectancy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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Bailey

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Normal

Hi Is Heart enlargement hereditary? If yes, is it mother to litter or could be either parent? If the mother has not been diagnosed with heart enlargement, but few of her puppy's have been, are rest of the litter also susceptible to this condition?

July 1, 2018

Bailey's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is suspected that there may be a genetic component in some breeds (Doberman, Boxer among others) but Golden Retrievers are no on the list; the details of a possible genetic link are unclear and there isn’t much information on the subject. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 2, 2018

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Loki

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Mutt

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12 Weeks

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

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Loss Of Appetite
Tired
Trouble Breathing
Slow

Loki was really for about a week so we took him to the hospital and they found he had a enlarged heart and lung. Loki is now on viagra.he was very sick and then the viagra kicked in and he is doing great. Will this fix him?

May 21, 2018

Loki's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Viagra (sildenafil) has been used in the treatment of heart enlargement and pulmonary hypertension; it is not possible to determine whether treatment will be curative (given the young age) or if this would be required for lifelong treatment. If you haven’t already, you should consult with a Veterinary Cardiologist a better insight. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 22, 2018

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Snow

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Maltese

dog-age-icon

12 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

Severe Coughing

How can i slow down my dog’s cough. She was diagnosed with enlarged heart, murmur,congestive heart failure. She was taking the furosemide half pill 3xday and her cough slowed down for a month but now again it started again so we increased the dose of furosemide to a whole pill 2x day, she still plays, has good appetite, she’s drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom normal, so I see the diuretic works fine, but she hasn’t slowed down on her cough and we can tell how uncomfortable she feels when it happens. She usually doesn’t cough at night but now she does towards the morning.

May 10, 2018

Snow's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Some dogs benefit from a cough suppressant with an enlarged heart, but it is important to make sure that the coughing isn't due to an increase in fluid buildup. Your veterinarian will be able to listen to her, take repeat x-rays if needed, and prescribe a cough medication if it is appropriate. I hope that she is okay.

May 11, 2018

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Sancho

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

15 Years

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

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
Lethargic
Gurgling
Caughing
Short Breaths
Heart Murmor

Sancho, My 15 year old Shih Tzu his everything to me. Please help? August 10th year before last was the first time he started dry coughing, hacking, gagging. Bouts would last a minute or two and then stop for days or weeks or even months. Took him to the vet yesterday because coughing got really bad. X-ray showed enlarged heart and he is breathing had and still has a sound between each breath like girdling. They said he has fluid in his lungs. I was sent home with the diuretic Furosemide, pimobendan and benazepril. He hasn't urinated any more than usual. In fact possibly less. And he hasn't pooped once since then. He is struggling to breathe with short rapid breath and a violent cough attack once an hour or so. Last one resulted in a little foam at the mouth. There's got to be something that can be done?? TAlso are these medications safe together? Only an x-ray was taken and a diuretic shot given at the vet. At what point should I rush into the emergency overnight vet? Can I remove the fluid? Give him oxygen?

May 2, 2018

Sancho's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

From your description, Sancho may benefit from oxygen therapy tonight, until he is more stable. Those medications can be given together, but dogs in heart failure walk a very thin line between 'ok' and 'not ok', and often oxygen therapy just makes life easier for them until the medications start to work. I hope that he is okay.

May 2, 2018

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Angel

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

20 Months

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

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptom

My 1.5 year old Golden retriever puppy left us recently. she died in her sleep, the autopsy said- congested, focal consolidated lung, whitish foam in the trachea, enlarged heart with marked dilation of both ventricles, swollen liver and spleen, dissented stomach containing lot of light greenish round pellets with little greenish fluid, yellowish fluid in the small intestine, greenish colon content, formed faeces. she was completely healthy and playful and very active. I am not sure what can be her cause of death. our vet said enlarged heart was the main cause . is that possible? we are complete shock and heart broken

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Jake

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Small mix

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My dog has been diagnosed with DCM and has a heart murmur level 3 in July and is currently on Pimobendan. He is approximately 5years old. I adopted him in March. He currently is on soloxine and taurine supplement. Are there any other supplements I can give to him to slow the progression of DCM. Thank you

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Gioia

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English Springer Spaniel

dog-age-icon

10 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

Fits

Gioia was coughing from time to time but not regularly. Suddenly last Thursday she had a fit, and after taking her to emergency an xray showed she has an enlarged heart and fluid around it. Medications are given 1-0-1 with 1 pill being given 0-0-.5. She eats at 6am and 7pm, 2nd fit came some 2 hrs after medication, she had another 2 fits the following day and today I took her for blood test. She had another fit at the clinic. Blood test has high hgb, glob and alkp, otherwise all OK. My problem now is she hasn't pooped since yesterday morning, even though she ate last night and this morning. A medication is for her to wee more frequently, but she's only gone twice. Some 25 minutes after the fit this morning, her heart rate was normal. How can I help her more please?

Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,500

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