How Dangerous is DCM in Dogs?

How Dangerous is DCM in Dogs?

Author WDF Staff


DCM is an abbreviation of dilated cardiomyopathy. Recent studies have shown DCM in dogs can be related to their diet. If you are worried about your dog’s health and you’d like to know more about DCM in dogs, stick with us. We will fill you in on all the necessary information you’d like to learn about dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs.

What is DCM in dogs?

DCM in dogs is a disease that causes the heart to become weak. The heart loses its ability to pump blood and can lead to congestive heart failure. It is pretty clear that this is a severe health concern that should not be taken lightly. Some dog breeds have a predisposition to this disease. Breeds like Boxers, Dobermans, and Great Danes are susceptible to it.

However, vets started diagnosing Golden Retrievers and mixed dog breeds that don’t have a natural predisposition to this health issue. Naturally, vets and the scientific community got concerned, and their response prompted a reaction from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2018, they organized a study regarding the connection between DCM in dogs and certain dog foods that contain lentils, peas, potatoes, and other legume seeds as one of the main ingredients.


At the moment, the FDA has not confirmed that grain-free food is the cause of DCM in dogs, but they issued an official warning. This is a piece of information dog owners should be aware of. Keep in mind that dog foods that contain “grain-free” labels don’t necessarily mean they are the best choice for dogs.

If you want to know more about great dog food, check out this article - Best dry dog food.

How dangerous is DCM in dogs?

DCM is a very serious and deadly disease. Once it is diagnosed, there are no guarantees. Most DCM cases in dogs are connected with Dobermans and Great Danes. Their lifespan after the diagnosis is anywhere from 3 to 24 months. Most affected dogs never resume a normal lifestyle, and their longevity will depend on how well they react to treatment.

Symptoms of DCM in dogs

Unfortunately, vets and scientists are still not fully aware of what causes DCM in dogs. Different studies are currently being conducted to reveal more details about this deadly health condition that is killing our dogs. As a dog owner, especially a dog owner of giant and very large breeds on grain-free diets, you should be aware of DCM symptoms in dogs. If you notice any of them, make sure you visit your vet and get your dog checked out for DCM. The most common symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy are;

  • Anorexia
  • Breathing issues
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe loss of energy
  • Coughing
  • Paws are cold to the touch

Make sure you keep a close eye on any of these symptoms, and if you notice them, make sure you get your vet’s attention as soon as possible.

How is DCM in dogs diagnosed?

Your vet must give your dog a thorough check-up if there is any doubt DCM is affecting your dog. The detailed exam will reveal other, more subtle symptoms that can only be uncovered by a physical exam. Those symptoms are;

  • Premature heart contractions
  • Pulse deficits
  • Slow capillary refill time in the mucous membrane tissues
  • Fluid in the lungs

To confirm dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, your vet will have to perform different health tests. Some of those tests can be;

  • Radiographic (X-ray) imaging will confirm the heart is enlarged
  • EKG can confirm arrhythmia or ventricular tachycardia
  • Ultrasound of the heart will confirm the thickness of the heart and each chamber’s ability to pump blood

How is DCM in dogs treated?

DCM usually requires several medications to keep the disease under control as much as possible. Keep in mind that dogs with this disease have a dangerous health issue, and this is a severe and deadly disease that mostly ends up in the worst possible ways. The vet will prescribe your dog medications to increase the dog’s heart’s ability to pump blood.

great dane puppy

The second medication is aimed to keep any types of arrhythmias in check. If the affected dog has a lot of fluid in their lungs, a diuretic will help them get that fluid out of them. The treatment is usually done at home, and dogs that are not incapable will not require hospitalization.


The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with DCM in dogs is not good. Your vet will let you know what the best treatment is, but most dogs diagnosed with DCM will eventually lose the battle against this terrible disease. Depending on the disease’s severity and progression at the moment of diagnosis, the vet will give you an estimation. Usually, dogs don’t live more than 24 months after the diagnosis. The breed that has the worst prognosis is the Doberman. These dogs live on average 6 months if DCM is diagnosed.

Can DCM be prevented?

For a disease to be prevented, we should be sure what causes it. Unfortunately, that is yet to be discovered. That also makes this disease unpreventable. However, the best thing you could do is get a puppy that will have the best possible start. Good and responsible breeders will test their dogs for different diseases. If they notice something is wrong with their dog, they will not breed them. Make sure you give your puppy the best possible start and only get them from responsible breeders with good breeding practices. That is the only way this disease can be avoided.

World Dog Finder team

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