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Genetics: Great Dane Dilated Cardiomyopathy

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.

Participation Requirements

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!


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.

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.

Sample Collection

Please ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to pull a blood sample into an EDTA tube. Most veterinary hospitals have these readily available.

  • Blood drawn into a Standard EDTA Tube does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Blood draw volume should be 1 to 2 ml, if possible.
  • Please label tube well, with cat’s call name and family last name and send the samples to our lab via the address above.

Blood drawn does not need to be mailed back with ice packs or be shipped overnight. However, if possible please try to send the sample within a few days by standard mail. Until the blood can be mailed, it is a good idea to refrigerate it (i.e., if the blood was drawn late Saturday and cannot be mailed until Monday, it’s a good idea to refrigerate it between Saturday and Monday).

Sample Submission

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

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