Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is an acquired disease that is characterized by a markedly enlarged and weakened heart muscle. In the Doberman it affects mainly the left ventricle and left atrium. It results in irregular, abnormal or premature heartbeats. These abnormalities may result in sudden death as the very first clue of a problem in your dog.

Males are more affected than females. Work at Guelph University suggests that about 60% of symptom free males and 40% of symptom free females will develop DCM.

Dobermans may manifest one of two common symptoms related to DCM. Respiratory distress, usually noted as a cough, wheeze, or labored breathing, is the most common symptom. The next common symptom is called sudden death. In sudden death owners usually observe that their dog was running in the yard then fell over and died. One third of all Dobermans destined to develop DCM will experience sudden death as the first symptom of their disease. A few dogs are noted to demonstrate a loss of stamina as the main sign of DCM.

Testing for Cardiomyopathy
Unfortunately, there is no definitive test for DCM.  Responsible breeders will use either a holter monitor or ECG to test for irregular heart beats.  These tests are usually done annually can be an excellent way for early detection of the disease.  Sadly, a dog can test clear one day and be affected a week later.  These tests help researchers learn more about cardio in the Doberman, and are an important part of finding a DNA marker for the disease.  You can contact the University of Guelph for information on holtering your Doberman.  An ECG can be performed by a board certified cardiologist.

Recent DCM News / Research

The VCGL laboratory released a test for the genetic mutation associated with the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in Doberman pinscher dogs in October 2010 based on research from Dr. Kate Meurs at Washington State University. Dilated Cardiomyopathy Mutation (DCM) is a form of heart disease in the Doberman Pinscher dog. It is inherited and Dr. Meurs and her team has identified a mutation responsible for the gene in some Doberman Pinscher. However, it should be noted that in human beings with the same disease, there are many different genetic mutations which can cause this disease. VCGL does not yet know if this is the only mutation in the Doberman Pinscher or if there will be many different mutations.

VCGL Laboratory ask the public to: “Please keep in mind that we are continually learning about this disease and recommendations will be altered as we obtain more information.” To this end, As of January 2011 VCGL laboratory has tested 1280 samples. Approximately 15% of all proven DCM cases DO NOT have the mutation. VCGL is eager to continue to work on these 15% of the cases and is collecting samples from affected dogs that are negative for the mutation in order for our research to progress.

Currently the lab’s interpretation of the test is:

Negative results: The absence of the mutation in this dog, DOES NOT mean that it will never develop the disease. It means that it does not have the only known mutation that can cause the disease in the dog at this time.

Positive Results:: Dogs that are positive for the test will not necessarily develop significant heart disease and die from the disease. Some dogs will develop a very mild form of the disease and will live quite comfortably, some may need treatment. Importantly, breeding decisions should be made carefully. At this time we have do not yet know what percentage of Doberman Pinscher will be positive for the mutation. However, removal of a significant number of dogs from the breeding population could be very bad for the Doberman Pinscher breed. Remember that dogs that carry this mutation also carry other important good genes that we do not want to lose from the breed.

Positive Heterozygous: D(1 copy of the mutated gene and 1 copy of a normal gene) Dogs that are positive heterozygous should be carefully evaluated for signs of disease (Holter monitor and an echocardiogram). If abnormalities are detected, possible treatment options should be discussed with your veterinarian. Adult dogs that do not show signs of disease and that have other positive attributes could be bred to mutation negative dogs. Puppies may be screened for the mutation and over a few generations, mutation negative puppies may be selected to replace the mutation positive parent and gradually decrease the number of mutation positive dogs in the population.

Positive Homozygous: (2 copies of the mutated gene). We recommend not breeding the homozygous dogs. Dogs that are homozygous for the mutation appear to have more significant disease and will certainly pass on the mutation.

Stem Cell Therapy for Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Stem Cell Therapy for Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Doberman Pinschers Dilated cardiomyopathy is a common cardiac affliction of Doberman Pinschers. Once begun, the pathology of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy is incessant, cumulative, and eventually fatal.

Conventional palliative medical therapy has assisted in the management of these clinical cases, but does not correct the underlying dysfunction of the cardiac muscle cells. Recently, cellular transplantation of adult stem cells has emerged as a novel means to repair left ventricular pump function with encouraging results in animal research models and early clinical trials in humans with ischemic heart disease. Nonischemic heart disease, such as idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), however, has yet to be addressed at all.

This is a prospective clinical trial in Doberman Pinscher dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy which will evaluate the efficacy of adult stem cell transplantation into the dilated, failing myocardium of dogs afflicted with DCM and hopefully provide the groundwork for a new treatment option in this patient population. This project is supported by funding from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.