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Dilated Cardiomyopathy and the Irish Wolfhound
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Dilated Cardiomyopathy and the Irish Wolfhound Print
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Irish Wolfhound - Health Issues
Written by Hugh McManus   

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008 06:09

Introduction

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a condition of the heart characterized by an increase in myocardial mass (heart enlargement)  and a reduction in ventricular wall thickness with a pronounced ventricular chamber dilation, which compromises the flow of blood in the circulatory system.  Irish Wolfhounds, as with many large breeds, have a particularly high incidence of DCM.   Cardiomyopathy ultimately leads to heart failure.

In Irish Wolfhounds, the onset of the disease occurs between three and six years old with a median age of about 4.5 years.  The incidence of DCM in male hounds is greater than in females. 

Causes

The cause of DCM, present in many large breeds, is subject of research.  In humans, the myocardium may be damaged through exposure to metabolic of infectious agents.  Autoimmune mechanisms are also suspected.  Not all Irish Wolfhounds suffer from the ailment; a genetic component is strongly suspected.  Recent work appears to confirm the hypothesis that the incidence of DCM may also be determined by the genetic makeup of the animal.  It’s now widely believed that DCM is a hereditary disease in dogs.

Incidence in Wolfhounds

In a study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2000, Dr. A. C. Vollmar presented data from a retrospective review of the results of cardio vascular examinations carried out on 500 Wolfhounds presented for veterinary services at his practice.  Abnormalities were found in 41.8% of the animals, with DCM diagnosed in 24.2%.  Of the 121 hounds diagnosed with DCM, the condition was accompanied by atrial fibrillation in 106 dogs.  The median survival time following the diagnosis of DCM was 5.1 months.

Symptoms

Weight loss is probably the most noticeable initial symptom of DCM.  Loss in weight can occur even if the hound has a strong appetite.  Exercise intolerance is also indicative of the disease; the hound may take frequent rests on walks.  Cyanosis, or discoloration of the gums, as a result of problems in the circulatory system, could also be triggered by DCM.  Any irregularities in the heart rate should alert the owner of possible problems.  Regular coughing, retention of fluids in the chest cavity of abdomen and difficulty in breathing may also be symptomatic of DCM.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available for dogs including ACE inhibitors, a group of pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disorders.  The generic name for an ACE inhibitors always ends in the letters –pril, such as Enalapril or Zofenopril.  ACE inhibitors are often accompanies by diuretics to elevate the rate of urination.   

More reading

Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, Vol 36, Issue 2, 125-132
http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/5/506