Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs Look to the beginning – not just to the end

The end of any pet’s life due to disease is difficult. The responses are with medication, abrupt nutritional change and lifestyle adjustments. Given our pets’ short lives, the true change must start in the beginning. We should have fed them differently, gone on walks together and kept them more fit. 

Weight management dramatically impacts disease

Statistics show that 40% to 50% of all dogs are over-weight and over 15% are obese. We all know that consumers feed a myriad of edibles, ranging from 10% to 30% more calories. We believe this may be as high as 50%. What would this do to a ‘complete and balanced’ food?

We can change the path through life, but can we change the beginnings? 

DCM was reported in dogs as early as in the 1980s within 0.5% to 1.1% of the overall population (Fioretti, 1988; Purdue, 1991; Sisson 1995). Was DCM not a concern then? Literature reveals many breeds as ‘high-risk’ (even higher rates than 1.1%). Our research of peer-reviewed articles currently shows more than 25 breeds as ‘high-risk’ and an additional 30+ breeds as having been diagnosed with DCM.

Can we have an impact on DCM through genetics?

Dogs are often considered an ideal model for many human genetic diseases, including DCM. Wilson (2012) wrote that dog studies make it easier to identify the genetic basis for disease.

The genetic pool of many breeds is limited as is the understanding of how to pick breed pairings. Recently, genetic marker-kits became available in some breeds to help pair selection. Breed popularity shifts regularly, making the potential for health disorders greater. Granholm (2009) stated that breeding interventions would be beneficial to reduce the risk of the development of DCM due to poor breeding selection. 

Rishniw (2011) reported that genomic testing in Doberman Pinschers showed specific genes directly involved in DCM, with one gene directly connected to glucose metabolism. Gilliam (2016) tested 69 different breeds with inherited diseases with whole genomic sequencing and specifically tested 753 Standard Schnauzers where 21 had DCM. 20 of these 21 had the specific deletion allele involved with DCM onset. The remaining 732 did not have this abnormality.

Hypothesis can be made simple, stating peas, legumes or taurine are causes of DCM when careful nutritional study has not been done. The FDA’s data reveals over 75% of the dogs reported are in the genetic ‘high-risk’ category while many other breeds have been reported with DCM. 

Prudent and wise 

I remember watching old TV Westerns where the mob rushed to the sheriff’s office to lynch the accused. The wise sheriff sent them all home to await real investigations.  

DCM has long been reported as a genetically-induced disease (heritable). Over-feeding is a growing issue leading to severe nutritional imbalance and impact upon health. Let’s be prudent and careful. We should tell consumers that DCM is genetically pre-disposed in many breeds. Consumers should know their breed and feed them with complete and balanced foods while treating wisely and keeping them fit. Change the beginnings.


George Collings