Ultrasound of an Estrela Mountain Dog with dilated cardiomyopathy. Image courtesy of Prof. Luís Lima Lobo
(Hospital Veterinário do Porto)
Lethal disease that affects mostly large breed dogs and has some incidence in the Estrela.
It is a cardiac dilatation and envolves the myocardium becoming very thin, losing contractility and blood pumping capacity. Consequently, the heart malfunctions, which can cause breathing difficulty, liquid accumulation in the lungs and abdomen, finally leading to death. Symptoms like coughing, fatigue, tachycardia or arrhythmia are typical of this disease which, once diagnosed, generally indicates a short life expectancy, usually from six months to two years. The disease might cause the dog’s sudden death from heart failure without any prior symptoms.
DCM can have a number of causes but in many cases there is a genetic predisposition. Therefore, when considering acquiring a puppy, it's very important that the parents were screened with satisfactory results. However, this disease might only show up at an elderly stage of the dog’s life (although sometimes very young dogs turn out affected), in which case it won’t be detected if the animal is screened while he’s young. When he reaches two years of age, he should have his heart screened by an experienced cardiologist vet. DCM detected early on would allow you to medicate your dog in order to maximize his lifespan and life quality. In addition, if a screening echocardiogram is done to your puppy, it might contribute to expanding the knowledge about the disease in the breed and assist your puppy’s breeder to breed healthy dogs.
In 2011, Prof. Luís Lima Lobo, cardiologist veterinary surgeon at the Hospital Veterinário do Porto, obtained his PhD on DCM in the Estrela Mountain Dog, with a view to developing a wider knowledge about this disease in the breed, including its specificity, heritability and incidence. His conclusions based on his research brought important information that should help breeders plan safer matings and consolidate their breeding programmes, whilst minimizing the odds of the disease occurring. In Lisbon, Prof. Sales Luís, cardiologist and oncologist veterinary surgeon at the Hospital da Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, has acknowledged the disease’s evolution in the breed over the last few decades. Both are specialist referral vets for dilated cardiomyopathy.
(excerpt from the book "Cuidar do Cão da Serra da Estrela / Rearing the Estrela Mountain Dog", by Manuela Paraíso)
Dilated cardiomyopathy test to an Estrela Mountain Dog, by Prof. Sales Luís
Photo: Ponta da Pinta