Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

Dr. Sumana Prabhakar, a veterinarian who is specializing in cardiology and who is leading the new trial for dogs with DCM, joins us from the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Dr. Sumana Prabhakar is completing a three-year residency in veterinary cardiology. She’s spearheading a clinical trial for dogs that have dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that typically occurs in large-breed dogs as they reach middle age. DCM causes the heart to enlarge and lose its strength. Dobermans, Great Danes and boxers are predisposed to the disease, but it also commonly strikes the Scottish deerhound, Newfoundland, Irish wolfhound and golden and Labrador retrievers.

The trial, which is funded through a veterinary company based in Ireland called TriviumVet, will cover the cost of the heart medications these dogs need throughout the six months of the study as well as the cost of all the diagnostic evaluations performed as part of the study. It will help determine whether the drug rapamycin, in conjunction with pimobendan, which is the standard treatment for these patients, will work to slow the progression of the disease.

People who have dogs with this diagnosis can get further information by contacting

DCM is a disease characterized by fibrosis and fatty infiltration of the heart muscle, resulting in the walls of the heart becoming thin and dilated. These changes decrease the heart’s ability to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body, which can ultimately lead to decreased oxygen delivery to the body or can lead to backing up of fluid into the lungs or “congestive heart failure”.

There are multiple definitive causes that have been theorized, investigated and identified including genetic, infectious and nutritional. In fact, a genetic mutation has been identified and associated with DCM in some breeds and there is even testing available for these genes. Some of the breeds we associate with this disease process include the Doberman Pinscher, Great Danes, Boxers, and Newfoundlands.

Current treatment is directed at improving the pumping function of the heart and minimizing the workload that the heart has to work against to pump blood to the rest of the body.

Our study is looking at Rapamycin, a compound that targets a specific cellular pathway that promotes age-related changes to cardiac function. Inhibition of this pathway has been shown to provide benefit in models of DCM. This suggests that providing this compound to our patients may provide therapeutic effects in our dogs affected by DCM.

College of Veterinary Medicine – Veterinary Medicine at Illinois