CANINE dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a condition characterised by impaired myocardial contractility and progressive dilatation of the left, right or all four chambers of the heart, without proportionate compensatory myocardial hypertrophy. The condition has, to date, been considered an idiopathic disease of unknown aetiology, although there is evidence that there might be a genetic basis to the disease in many dog breeds. This article describes some of the breed-specific manifestations of canine DCM and discusses the evidence for a genetic aetiology. It also highlights the need for early diagnosis of the asymptomatic stages of the condition (occult DCM), which, if undetected, can lead to sudden death or congestive heart failure. A second article, to be published in the next issue, will discuss the treatment and management of canine DCM.
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