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Genetics: Genetics Great Dane Dilated Cardiomyopathy

When a Great Dane is diagnosed with dilated Cardiomyopathy, the implication of subsequent abnormalities, such as congestive heart failure, also becomes a concern. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is prevalent among giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes. In fact, the breed may be second only to Doberman Pinschers in its vulnerability to this condition. While experts agree that the disease is hereditary in some breeds, until recently there’s been a question whether that’s also the case with Great Danes.

A preliminary answer to that question comes from research by Kathryn Meurs, D.V.M., PH.D., Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies/Professor at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Meurs has determined that – as with other breeds – the condition is genetically based. Knowledge of whether DCM in Great Danes is truly hereditary – and if so, what the culprit gene is and how it’s transmitted – will go a long way toward helping veterinarians diagnose the disease early enough for treatment to have the best chance for success. Such screenings also will help breeders eliminate affected lines – and with them, the disease – from their breeding programs.

Great dane dog

 Free Webinar

Dr. Kate Meurs of the Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab at North Carolina State University presents a FREE webinar on Great Dane Dilated Cardiomyopathy. The content is targeted to the dog owner/breeder but anyone is welcome to view the session.

We are currently looking for DNA samples from adult dogs (Great Danes) with and without dilated cardiomyopathy to advance our study to identify a gene for Great Dane dilated cardiomyopathy. Ideally samples would be from dogs with a pedigree but we can take samples from non-pedigreed rescue Danes as well. If you do have a pedigree and can include a Xerox copy that would be VERY helpful as well!

Please complete this form and return along with the sample and required cardiologist report to:

NCSU-College of Veterinary Medicine
Attn: Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Laboratory
Research Bldg. 228
1060 William Moore Dr
Raleigh, NC 27607

Great Danes with DCM may develop a dangerous complication: a disruption in their heartbeat, called an arrhythmia. These disruptions occur when the scar tissue that replaces the atrophied myocardium disrupts the electrical impulse traveling from the brain to the heart to start each heartbeat. These interruptions generally are expressed as premature ventricular contractions (PVC) or atrial fibrillation (AF). With a PVC, the ventricle beats earlier than it should; with an AF, a storm of electrical energy causes the upper chambers of the heart to quiver or vibrate. Either way, aggressive arrhythmias can be fatal unless the heart’s normal rhythm is resumed quickly. Future prospects for early DCM screening could improve significantly now that scientists are beginning to understand how the disease is transmitted in Great Danes.