The treatment of DCM happens with medicaments depending on the severity of the disease. However, this is a completely palliative (i.e. symptom-relieving, but not healing) treatment. Diuretics, ACE inhibitors and digitalis (heart-strengthening drugs) are used. When arrhythmias occur, antiarrhythmic drugs are used.
Diuretics are drainage drugs that counteract possible congestive symptoms. They lead to increased urine production and thus to the increased excretion of sodium and water. The kidney values of the dog should be kept in mind when taking diuretics regularly.
ACE inhibitors dilate the blood vessels, increase cardiac output and reduce vascular resistance, thus facilitating blood flow and relieving the heart. This increases the life expectancy of the animals and leads to a higher quality of life through an improvement of the resilience and the general well-being.
Digitalis preparations also increase heart cardiac output, reduce the heart rate in rest and increase the contraction capacity of the heart muscle.
Digitalis preparations also increase the quality of life of the diseased dogs, but their life span can be shortened due to their low therapeutic range (small margin between therapeutic and toxic effects).
The best medicine for a DCM seems to be Pimobendan at the moment, because it combines the cardio tonic effects of the digitalis preparations with the vasodilating effects of the ACE inhibitors and has only a few side effects.
If a hereditary defect in the carnitine/taurine metabolism plays a role in the affected dog, supplementation with carnitine and taurine can be useful. In this case, it is rarely even possible that after the addition of these amino acids no further cardiac medication is necessary.
The prognosis for a DCM depends on the underlying disease, individual characteristics, and the severity of arrhythmias. The survival period after decompensation is between 80-140 days in average, some affected patients manage it for a few years, others only a few days after diagnosis.