In short, cardiomyopathy is a serious and often fatal dysfunction of the heart muscle that produces abnormal contractility of the heart muscle, thus altered pumping of the heart. Two forms of cardiomyopathy are commonly recognized: Dilated Cardiomyopathy, where the heart becomes grossly distended and congestive heart failure ensues; Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which describes an abnormal thickening of the muscle of the left ventricle of the heart. The exact causes of these conditions are unknown.
Clinical signs may be similar to other cardiac conditions and include weakness, poor appetite, weight loss, a rapid, labored breathing, coughing, swelling to the abdomen or extremities, fainting episodes and sudden death. Some dogs may display no symptoms before a sudden and often severe onset of the disease. This condition, again, often appears similar to many other diseases of the heart. Diagnosis is based on history, physical examination, EKG testing, X-rays, Echocardiograms and complete blood and urine testing.
TREATMENT OF CARDIOMYOPATHY
Treatment for most dogs is partially similar to that of congestive heart failure and the extent of treatment will depend on the severity of the disease and the associated clinical signs. Most dogs will need rest and avoidance of any stressful activity. A low sodium diet is also important. Digitalis, diuretics such as furosemide and other drugs are all employed. Careful monitoring of the patient and organ function tests and EKG analysis are all needed to monitor the health of the dog as time goes by. Dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy may have a slightly better survival rate than dogs with the hypertrophic form. Overall, however, long-term survival is not likely.