Lethal disease that affects mostly large breed dogs and has some incidence in the Estrela. It is a cardiac dilatation and envolves the myocardium becoming very thin, losing contractility and blood pumping capacity. Consequently, the heart malfunctions, which can cause breathing difficulty, liquid accumulation in the lungs and abdomen, finally leading to death. Symptoms like coughing, fatigue, tachycardia or arrhythmia are typical of this disease which, once diagnosed, generally indicates a short life expectancy, usually from six months to two years. The disease might cause the dog’s sudden death from heart failure without any prior symptoms.
DCM can have a number of causes but in many cases there is a genetic predisposition. Therefore, when considering acquiring a puppy, it's very important that the parents were screened with satisfactory results. However, this disease might only show up at an elderly stage of the dog’s life (although sometimes very young dogs turn out affected), in which case it won’t be detected if the animal is screened while he’s young. When he reaches two years of age, he should have his heart screened by an experienced cardiologist vet. DCM detected early on would allow you to medicate your dog in order to maximize his lifespan and life quality.
(excerpts from the book "Cuidar do Cão da Serra da Estrela / Rearing the Estrela Mountain Dog", by Manuela Paraíso)
Ultrasound test of dilated cardiomyopathy, performed at the Instituto Veterinário do Parque (Lisbon)
Ultrasound of a dog with dilated cardiomyopathy, performed at the Hospital Veterinário do Porto
(image courtesy of Prof. Luís Lima Lobo)
Systematic control of dilated cardiomyopathy has always been one of the mandatory elements of our programme for bettering the breed. Read more.