How is DCM diagnosed?
Diagnosis of DCM is made with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) by a veterinary cardiologist. Following initial diagnosis, regular checkups are recommended to monitor progression and start medications if needed. If heart failure is suspected, chest x-rays will also be recommended to look for fluid in the lungs.
Additional blood tests including thyroid testing and cardiac biomarkers are sometimes recommended. If abnormal heart rhythms are present, ECG or Holter monitoring (24-hour ECG vests) are performed.
For breeds predisposed to DCM, annual screening is recommended. For example, the European Society of Veterinary Cardiology recommends Dobermans are screened for DCM annually starting at three years of age with an echocardiogram and Holter monitor. Genetic testing is available for Dobermans and Great Danes. Please remember that genetic tests can help quantify risk or aid in breeding programs, but some dogs who test negative for the affected gene go on to develop DCM and vice versa.