DCM Project Recruiting Dogs for Study Right Now!

The holter project is underway and needs participants!

Needed: 100 Deerhounds living in the U.S. ages 4 years and up with no signs or diagnoses of heart disease.

We have only just started this new phase of our DCM research, but it is already clear that we are going to learn a ton from this study. We encourage everyone with a qualifying dog to take part!

Please contact us to sign your dog(s) (multiple dogs from a household are welcome) up!

Please note: You will need to shave three small areas on your dog’s chest and do the monitoring in the time you are given (~1 week/dog).

When you are done, you will need to promptly ship the box to the next participant and be prepared to spend ~$60-120 to ship the box using the carrier they request.

What you need to supply:

  • A smartphone or tablet.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Baking soda.
  • Vegetable oil.

The more dogs we do, the more we’ll learn – please contact us to sign up your dogs!

About the 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 ECG diagnostics can be used 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 DCM is in our breed, we know surprisingly little about it. We do know that it appears to present differently in Deerhounds than it 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 and how they relate to DCM in our breed, as well as what role, if any, Holter monitoring can play in diagnosing DCM in our breed.
  2. A study to determine whether Alivecor devices can be used to reliably detect arrhythmias in Deerhounds.
  3. A study of dogs diagnosed with DCM to collect health records and then tissue samples after they pass away.

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.

Luis Dos Santos, DVM, PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (cardiology), a cardiologist at Purdue University, will also be working with us on this project.  He was one of the cardiologists at our 2022 specialty cardiac clinic. Here is more information on Dr. Dos Santos.

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, 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 Holter 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, the dog can’t use a dog door, 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 get a big enough sample, so we need people to sign up to have their dogs monitored.

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, and are mostly only accessible through veterinary cardiologists. There is now a machine called the Alivecor Kardiamobile that allows people to monitor their heart beat at home using their smartphone or tablet 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 detect 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.

Here is the full Alivecor proposal.

Please note: At this time we are only doing Alivecor sessions combined with a Holter session.

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

Dogs Affected with DCM Study

Finally, we would like to ask everyone who has a dog diagnosed with DCM to help us by:

  1. Sharing health records and diagnostic test results. All you need to do is email your dog’s records to us.
  2. Having your regular vet take some tissue samples when your dog passes away, no matter what the cause. The study would like to examine the heart tissue of dogs who pass away who had 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 that pass away, no matter what the cause (the dog does not need to die from the DCM) if they will ask their regular veterinarian to collect some small tissue samples. 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.


One thing we have already learned is we are going to need to do more cardiac ultrasounds than the five we have in the budget. This doesn’t mean we have more dogs with DCM than we thought—we don’t know what our initial findings mean yet, but the only way to learn more is to echo the dogs. At $500/echo, we are going to need quite a bit more money to keep the echo program going.

Also, we have gotten Board approval for a small fish oil study. All of the dogs in this study will need a second Holter/Alivecor session, which is $170. So we will need a bit more money for that, too.

So we are going to be doing some fundraising this fall: We will be soliciting both auction items and cash donations for a health fundraising effort.  We will also be doing clothing with original artwork by Aaron Coberly, who did the watercolor that we used for our last design (pictured here). So please stay tuned!

Deerhounds in Vests!

Enjoy these photos of our study dogs doing their thing while being monitored!