By Ernest Ward, DVM
Cardiomyopathy is defined as degeneration of the heart muscle. As a result of this degeneration, the muscle becomes thinner, particularly the thick muscle wall of the left ventricle. The pressure of the blood inside the heart causes these thin walls to stretch resulting in a much larger heart. This condition is described as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).
Dilated cardiomyopathy may have a sudden onset of clinical signs, although the heart disease has been developing slowly and insidiously. Some dogs may develop severe congestive heart failure (CHF) in only a few hours. Rapid, heavy breathing, a blue tongue, excessive drooling or collapse may be the first signs.
Before a diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy is made, several tests are performed to assess different aspects of heart function.
Blood and urine tests. We are especially concerned about liver and kidney function because these organs are often impaired in heart disease.