Photo by Kikko Kåhre.

DCM Project

The SDCA has embarked on a new phase of our Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) research project that we hope will teach us something about what DCM looks like in Deerhounds and also give us some more information about how diagnostics can be used to detect DCM in our breed.

DCM is a common condition in Deerhounds. According to our latest health survey in 2011, heart problems, most of which were caused by DCM, were the cause of death for 22% of males and 14% of bitches.

However common it is, we know surprisingly little about it. We do know that it appears to present differently than DCM presents in other breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers. But we need to learn more about what those differences are.

To do this, there are three parts to our study:

  1. A Holter study to learn more about the arrhythmias that are present in some Deerhounds with DCM.
  2. A study to determine whether Alivecor devices can be used to detect arrhythmias in Deerhounds.
  3. A necropsy study to collect tissue samples from dogs with DCM that have died.

We are very lucky to be partnering with Meg Sleeper, VMD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (cardiology), a cardiologist at the University of Florida, on this project. Here is more information on Dr. Sleeper.

Holter Study

One of the things we’ve noticed and has been confirmed by our colleagues in the United Kingdom, who have been studying Deerhound DCM for several years and with whom we are working on this project, is that some Deerhounds with DCM have arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and others do not. We really don’t know much more than that, so the first part of our study is to try to learn more about these arrhythmias.

The gold standard for studying heart arrhythmias is the Holter Monitor. A Holter Monitor is a small, wearable device that keeps track of heart rhythms. They are commonly used in human medicine and are also used by veterinary cardiologists. The beauty of Holters is they can be worn for extended periods of time, thus giving cardiologists a clear picture of the patient’s heart rhythm. Most dogs are monitored for 24 uninterrupted hours. Using Holter monitors is the obvious place to start to learn more about these arrhythmias. So we are embarking on a Holter study. 

Ideally, we’d like to monitor 100 Deerhounds over the next year or so. Monitoring is easy, as the monitor is protected by a vest that keeps it in place. The dog can do its normal activities, the only exception being the monitor cannot get wet and we can’t have any dogs pulling on the vest.

If we can study the full 100 Deerhounds, we hope to shed some light on these arrhythmias. 

But we need to do 100 dogs to even find a few dogs with arrhythmias, so we encourage—and need people to sign up to have their dogs Holtered.

Here is the full Holter/Necropsy study proposal.

Here is more information on doing a Holter study.

Please sign up your dog! Please contact us to sign up.

Alivecor Study

Holter monitors are great, but they are expensive, from the machines to the reports. There is now a machine called the Alivecor that allows people to monitor their heart rhythm at home using their smart phone and send the results to their cardiologist. Veterinary cardiologists also use them on established patients so pet owners can send in reports on their animals.

We want to see whether Deerhound owners can use the Alivecor to accurately find heart arrhythmias on their Deerhounds.

Because the Holter Monitor is the established gold standard to find heart arrhythmias, the best time to test another device that will be used to detect arrhythmias is when you are doing a Holter Study. So that is why we are running both studies at the same time: For the owners participating in the Holter study who also have a smart phone, we will have them also do Alivecor sessions on their dogs so we can compare results.

If someone just wants to do Alivecor, that can be available for an additional fee. However, if an arrhythmia is discovered, you will need to do a Holter session (free of charge) on your dog to confirm.

Here is the full Alivecor proposal.

Please sign up your dog! Please contact us to sign up!

Necropsy Study

Finally, we would like to examine the heart tissue of dogs with confirmed cases of DCM to see if it provides any clues to the causes of this disease in Deerhounds. We are asking owners of dogs diagnosed with DCM if they will ask their regular veterinarian to collect some small tissue samples, and the club can reimburse you for some of those expenses.

Here is the full Holter/Necropsy study proposal.

Here are the sample collection instructions.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Genetic Study

The U.K. Deerhound Club is building on the genetic study we did a few years ago and is working on next steps. We are supporting their work by providing DNA from dogs with confirmed cases of DCM. Participating is simple, because we have made arrangements to have CHIC send the samples, so all you have to do is get a sample to CHIC.

If there is DNA already banked from your dog  in CHIC, then all you have to do is update your dog’s health record by contacting CHIC.

If your dog does not have DNA banked, then here are the instructions. We do ask that you send 7–10 ml of blood (a bit more than usual) so we can send plenty to the U.K. and still have some left over for other studies.