Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in dogs: causes, symptoms, therapy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in dogs is a condition characterized by thickening of the heart muscle. This makes the dogs less resilient. Below you will find out more about the causes, symptoms and treatment options of HCM. The heart is examined using an ultrasound scan - Shutterstock / Ermolaev Alexander

If a four-legged friend suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, causing the heart muscle to thicken, this means that the heart can no longer fill with blood sufficiently. The disease is rather rare in dogs and mostly affects young, male dogs that are younger than five years old.

Causes of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

In HCM, a distinction is made between primary and secondary hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Primarily here means that the cause lies in the heart muscle itself, i.e. it is a genetic defect that can be passed on. Unlike cats, this is very rare in dogs.

The second form has its causes in diseases such as increased blood pressure, an increase in growth hormone or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). The thickening of the heart muscle can occur in one or more places and be distributed irregularly.

Recognizing Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Symptoms

In general, the heart disease is rather difficult to identify in the early stages. Dogs, however, show clearer symptoms of HCM compared to cats, which, however, can also indicate other diseases. Ultimately, the veterinarian must thoroughly examine the four-legged friend to make the diagnosis. These symptoms can indicate hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:

• Increased need for rest and sleep
• loss of appetite
• To cough
• Accelerated heart rate (mostly visible and palpable)
• Accelerated breathing
• Decreasing resilience
• Declining joy of playing
• Panting due to the open catch after exercise
• Bluish mucous membranes
• shortness of breath and fainting (at an advanced stage)

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Diagnosis by ultrasound test

If HCM is suspected, the vet will review the heart murmurs and do a high-resolution ultrasound. The experienced veterinarian recognizes irregularities in the size of the heart or heart muscles as well as the changed blood flow.

Therapy and prognosis of HCM

Unfortunately, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is not curable. However, the right medication can increase the lifespan and quality of life. For example, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors can be used for treatment, which facilitate blood flow and alleviate the symptoms of HCM. The medication must be administered continuously for a lifetime. The vet will give you detailed information and discuss everything with you so that the dog can lead a reasonably normal and happy life at best. The prognosis always depends on the severity of the disease, whether and what complications occur and how the medication works.

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