Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)


DCM is one of the more common form of Cardiomyopathy, where the walls of the heart become thin and weakened, enlarging the heart and resulting in congestive heart failure.  There are several possible causes to this problem including environmental and physiological factors as well as genetic predisposition.  

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Symptoms: Coughing, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance or collapse, weakness, lethargy, restlessness, anorexia.

Treatment Options:  Early and regular screening should be done to detect any abnormal heart sounds.  In the case of an affected individual, a complete analysis may be required to rule out any other causes and get a more accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms may be controlled by prescribed oral medications, but unfortunately prognosis is poor with a very high mortality rate.

Known Mode of Inheritance:  Unknown in Cardigans.  Thought to be Autosomal Dominant in Boxers and possibly gender linked in Great Danes.  Currently it is considered a complex issue with genetic predisposition. Recently, researchers are studying the possibility of a link between grain-free boutique foods and DCM: http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/06/a-broken-heart-risk-of-heart-disease-in-boutique-or-grain-free-diets-and-exotic-ingredients/

Age of onset: 4-10 years, typically seen in older dogs.

Breeds affected

  • Cardigan: yes
  • Pembroke: yes
  • Other Breeds: yes, many breeds and mixed breeds, but Boxers, Dobermans, Newfoundlands and Great Danes have been identified at greater risk.

Incidence in Cardigans: Uncertain due to low participation in testing. OFA Cardiac Statistics ranks cardigans 83rd out of the 133 breeds with more than 50 individuals submitted to their database.  Out of the 57 cardigans in the OFA Cardiac registry, none are identified as affected by this problem.  Incidence may be relatively low, but it has been reported in the breed.


  • Cardigans: no
  • Other breeds: yes. primarily for Dobermans, Newfoundlands, Great Danes and Boxers.
  • Active?: yes

Registry: yes, the OFA has a Cardiac Database which is currently being improved.   

DNA Tests Available: not currently.  A marker has been identified in Dobermans, but at this time 15 percent of affected individuals tested do not carry this defect, so further research is in progress.

Research links:

Published papers and Articles:

Discussion Groups:


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