Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM or DC) is a type of heart disease where the heart muscle swells up like a giant balloon preventing the heart from pumping blood properly. This type of enlarged heart has a dietary link in cats so it’s rarely seen today. DCM is caused by a taurine deficiency.
Taurine is an essential amino acid, a building block of protein. Cats need a high amount of taurine in their diet because their bodies can’t make taurine for them. Cat foods today are all supplemented with taurine to try and prevent DCM. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “dogs can survive on cat food but cats can’t survive on dog food” the lack of additional taurine in dog food is the reason why.
Although DCM can occur in any cat who does not eat enough taurine, the disease is more common in Persian, domestic shorthair or domestic longhair cats, Abyssinian, Birman, Burmese, and Siamese cats. DCM can also occur in cats who are in the end stages of heart disease from either Restrictive Cardiomyopathy (RCM) or Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).
In July of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was investigating the relationship between grain-free, as well as legume-based diets, and DCM in pets. This was a result of an increase of DCM in dogs of certain breeds not genetically prone to the disease who were discovered to be consuming diets that don’t contain grains. The FDA has also had reports of cats being affected by this condition. If you are currently feeding your cat a grain-free diet, particularly any of the “boutique” cat foods types, be sure to discuss the diet with your vet.
Cats with any kind of heart disease are also very likely to develop chronic kidney disease because reduced blood flow from the heart will impair kidney function. Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Kidney Disease has some good information about heart disease and on how heart disease and kidney disease are treated together, but that page focuses mostly on HCM, which is a much more common type of heart disease.
Disease Information Sites
There aren’t any sites totally devoted to dilated cardiomyopathy in cats, but PetMD has a page that covers the basics pretty well.
Special Hearts: Cats with Heart Defects of Diseases is a great Facebook support group for all kinds of heart problems in cats, including DCM.
Cats With Multiple Medical Conditions is another great Facebook group for support.
Both groups have members who are experienced in dealing with heart disease, and many of those members also have experience dealing with the heart disease + kidney disease combination.