Objective—To identify clinical signs, underlying cardiac
conditions, echocardiographic findings, and prognosis
for horses with congestive heart failure.
Procedure—Signalment; history; clinical signs; clinicopathologic,
echocardiographic, and radiographic
findings; treatment; and outcome were determined
by reviewing medical records.
Results—All 14 horses were examined because of a
heart murmur; tachycardia was identified in all 14.
Twelve horses had echocardiographic evidence of
enlargement of 1 or more chambers of the heart.
Other common clinical findings included jugular distention
or pulsation, crackles, cough, tachypnea, and
ventral edema. Nine horses had signs consistent with
heart failure for > 6 days. Underlying causes for heart
failure included congenital defects, traumatic vascular
rupture, pericarditis, pulmonary hypertension secondary
to heaves, and valvular dysplasia. Seven horses
were euthanatized after diagnosis of heart failure;
5 were discharged but were euthanatized or died of
complications of heart disease within 1 year after discharge.
The remaining 2 horses were discharged but
lost to follow-up.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest
that congestive heart failure is rare in horses. A loud
heart murmur accompanied by either jugular distention
or pulsation, tachycardia, respiratory abnormalities
(crackles, cough, tachypnea), and ventral edema were
the most common clinical signs. Echocardiography was
useful in determining the underlying cause in affected
horses. The long-term prognosis for horses with congestive
heart failure was grave. (J Am Vet Med Assoc