Diagnosis of DCM consists of (1) Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) to look for structural changes, and (2) ECG or Holter monitoring to look for arrhythmias. Sometimes other tests such as chest radiographs or blood tests will also be recommended, to help determine the best treatment options.
Clinical Signs and Stages of Disease:
1. “Occult Stage”: This is the early stage of DCM, when the heart becomes dilated, but outwardly, no clinical signs are evident. Your dog will seem perfectly healthy at this stage, and evidence of disease will only be seen if tests are done. This stage is long and often lasts 2-4 years.
2. “Overt Stage”: This is when heart failure develops. Clinical signs will now be evident e.g. breathing difficulties, lethargy and/or collapsing. This stage may last only weeks or months before deterioration occurs.