Congestive heart failure in horses: 14 cases (1984–2001)

Jennifer L. Davis Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Sarah Y. Gardner Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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 DVM, PhD, DACVIM
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Brooke Schwabenton Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Babetta A. Breuhaus Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Abstract

Objective—To identify clinical signs, underlying cardiac conditions, echocardiographic findings, and prognosis for horses with congestive heart failure.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—14 horses.

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 2002;220:1512–1515)

Abstract

Objective—To identify clinical signs, underlying cardiac conditions, echocardiographic findings, and prognosis for horses with congestive heart failure.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—14 horses.

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 2002;220:1512–1515)

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