Dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs is a condition which causes enlargement of the chambers of the heart. Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is very common, and is one of the primary causes of congestive heart failure in dogs.
DCM can kill your dog.
Our Menia came to us from China last year. We know she did not have a good diet, but I feed my five goldens well and thought she’d be fine after a few months of good food.
Last summer we called her the “Vampire dog” as she always looked for shade to take a rest on our walks. During the fall and winter, we only noticed this behavior on long walks.
I expressed concerns to my vet and asked for a referral to a canine cardiologist. My vet was resistant. He said Menia’s heart rate was low normal. He said he did not hear a murmur. He did an EKG and it was normal.
The next day on a walk she laid down. She is the youngest dog in my pack. I knew this wasn’t normal, so I made an appointment with a canine cardiologist.The cardiologist listened to Menia’s heart and immediately heard a low level murmur. He did an echocardiogram and saw that while her heart is not enlarged or dilated, one chamber pumps more slowly than the others. He did a thyroid test and a taurine test. Her thyroid is fine. Her taurine level is 208. Normal for some dogs, but NOT for golden retrievers. Normal for goldens is 250.
Menia is now taking taurine to strengthen her heart. We are adding a Purina kibble to her diet, and she will have another echocardiogram in six months.
While Menia did not have many symptoms of DCM such as:
- Breathing difficulties.
- Excessive agitation.
- Arrhythmia: Abnormal heartbeat.
- Heart murmurs.
- Exercise intolerance.
I knew her walking behavior was not normal. Without intervention her heart would likely enlarge and she would have more symptoms and perhaps even die.
I’m still waiting to see if my insurance will cover this as I went to the cardiologist without a referral from my local vet. (Healthy Paws said I needed a referral.) The cost with all of the tests was $1,000, but knowing my pup will most likely be just fine because of my determination is priceless. Update: Insurance did pay.
If you are feeding a grain free diet now, I strongly encourage you to change foods. Grain free foods replace grains with legumes, peas, lentils, all types of potatoes. Canine cardiologists researchers are trying to figure out how these replacement ingredients are impacting taurine production in dogs and why goldens are more susceptible than breeds.
The best source of information I have found is a Facebook group called Taurine Deficiency in Golden Retrievers. One of the moderators is Dr. Stern, who recently published an interim report on his research on this topic. You can also review a list of foods being fed to goldens and what their taurine test and echocardiogram test results were.