Veterinarian: Always Assess Equine Heart Murmurs

Cardiac murmurs are common in horses, and it’s important to assess the impact of any heart murmur on athletic performance and on rider and animal safety.
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Cardiac murmurs are common in horses, and it’s important to assess the impact any murmur on athletic performance and on rider and animal safety.

Speaking at the Australian Veterinary Association’s Annual Conference, taking place May 25-30 in Perth, Western Australia, Guy Lester, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, of Murdoch University, also in Western Australia, said cardiac murmurs are found in horses across a wide range of ages.

“There’s a range of techniques that can be used to assess cardiovascular function in horses including echocardiography (an ultrasound examination of the heart), field exercise testing, and lab tests," he said. “Exercise testing is important to determine if the murmur is associated with cardiac arrhythmia during exercise and if it’s appropriate for the level of work the horse is performing.

“Equine heart disease can be difficult to definitively diagnose, but the attending vet should have a high index of suspicion based on auscultation," Lester continued. "It’s important to use a good stethoscope, that’s properly maintained and positioned correctly. It’s highly unusual for significant cardiac disease to be present without a murmur, a change in heart rate or a change in heart rhythm

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