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veterinary medicine

Screening for cardiac diseases in an other dimension


Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dobermanns

Dilatory cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common heart disease in the dobermann pinscher and affects more than 40% of dogs in certain age groups. This disease effects not only dobermanns, but this study starts with a focus on this breed because of the high prevelance.

This condition causes enlargement of the heart. However, for early detection ('screening') of this disease, more advanced diagnostic tests are required, such as echocardiography, electrocardiography and 24-h Holter ECG, which is not always feasible in primary veterinary practices. 

Although treatment with pimobendan in the early phase of DCM is known to increase life expectancy, screening in primary veterinary practices is not yet optimal.

The electrocardiogram (ECG) is a cheap and simple technique for measuring the electrical activity of the heart, but it is not very sensitive for detecting heart enlargement. The RELF method is a new method that can measure the ECG in three dimensions and could offer advantages over the classic ECG.

The aim of this study is to validate the RELF method for dogs as a screening tool for DCM. In this way we can detect DCM earlier, treat it and increase life expectancy.

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"The administration of pimobendan to Dobermans with preclinical DCM prolongs the time to the onset of clinical signs and extends survival."

        - Summerfield et al. - American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Diagnosis of preclinical DCM

The golden standard to diagnose preclinical DCM is echocardiography and 24h holter, every year starting of the age of 3-4 years. When these are not available, NT pro BNP and thoracic X- rays are a possibility.

Thoracic X-rays are not sensitive enough for cardiac enlargement. 

NT pro BNP is sensitive for echocardiac changes but not specific enough and an immidiate answer is not feasible. To determine NT pro BNP it is necessary to take blood, which is a more invasive way than taking an EKG.

Image by Ali Hajiluyi
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RELF device 

RELF is an acronym for Right (R) Experimental (E), Left (L), and Foot (F) electrode. The RELF prototype consist of one small panelboard and 4 wires. The 4 electrode patches of the wires were attached to the bottom of the left (L) (yellow electrode) and right front leg (R) (red electrode), left hind leg (F) (green electrode) and to the experimental point (E) (white electrode).

This device measures an ECG in three directions, providing the possibility to create a vectorcardiography.


It would be possible to have an idea of the cardiac enlargement straight away at the moment of the measurement.


Owners could have the ability to monitor there dog at home or before breeding. 

Image by Robina Weermeijer

Take part in the study: the search for dobermanns with DCM

It is always recommended to have your Dobermann screened annually! To validate the RELF device, a large number of Dobermanns are needed that are either healthy or unfortunately already have DCM. Due to our limitation in grants and financial support, we are limited in the number of Dobermanns that we can include.

At the moment we have enough healthy Dobermanns for the study and we are mainly looking for Dobermanns with DCM. Data from healthy Dobermanns are certainly still an added value for the study, but studies can no longer be offered completely free of charge, certainly with a discount.

On the move!

Maastricht 12th of September 2021

To enthuse more Dobermann owners, we went to a local club championship for Dobermanns in September. Lots of owners were excited to have their loved one examined. In this way, we hope to give more attention to the condition among Doberman owners and work together towards a DCM free future for the breed.


Participated Dobermanns  In Numbers







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