Narre Warren Vet Dr Robyn Charman Chats about Equine Cardiology at our Horse Hospital


Cardiology or detailed heart examinations can be performed at the South Eastern Equine Hospital.  A visiting equine medical specialist, Dr Kate Savage, is available by appointment. Our hospital is well equipped to investigate cardiac issues with both echocardiography (ultrasound) and electrocardiography (ECG) available on-site.

One issue we are commonly presented with are heart murmurs. These murmurs are generated when there is turbulent blood flow which causes vibrations in the structures of the heart. This can sometimes be caused by low blood viscosity which may be due to anaemia (low red blood cell count). So it is important to run a blood test to check for evidence of anaemia.

Murmurs may also result from conditions that cause an increase in heart output and these are classed as physiological murmurs. Other causes of murmurs include ‘leaky’ or abnormal valves, where there is a small hole or leak between the valve leaflets in the heart. This can be due to an abnormality with the valve such as a congenital defect or degenerative problem but can also be found in normal hearts at the moment when the valves close. Abnormalities with the heart structures, such as a defect in the internal wall separating the two sides of the heart or shunting vessels may also cause murmurs. It is really important to correctly identify the murmur so that the prognosis and significance of the problem can be accurately determined.

The way we determine if the sound we hear as a murmur is an issue starts with us listening with a stethoscope on both sides of the chest. After this simple examination we usually run an echocardiogram. This allows the heart structures to be visualised and measured on an ultrasound screen and blood flow across valves can also be determined in the standing horse. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can also be performed easily on the standing patient. This displays the electrical current as it runs through the heart causing contractions. Reading the ECG will show any abnormalities in electrical conduction (arrhythmias), and allow an assessment of how specific areas of the heart are functioning both at rest and after exercise.

Ensure that one of our equine vets checks your horse’s heart regularly as murmurs can develop as the horse ages and are not always present at birth.   


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