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Heart disease can affect horses of all ages and breeds and can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed later in life).

Specialists at the Equine Center use state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment with a specialty echocardiogram package that enables assessment of the heart's anatomy, size, and function, as well as intra-cardiac blood flow.

  • Congenital defects
  • Degenerative or infectious valvular diseases
  • Pathologies of the muscle or external envelope of the heart (pericardium)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Poor performance
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Heart murmur and irregular rhythm
  • Distended veins
  • Peripheral swelling
  • Coughing
  • Poor growth
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

A cardiac evaluation, normally performed on an outpatient basis and lasting from 1-3 hours, includes the following assessments:

  • A thorough physical examination and cardiac auscultation to determine the heart rate and cardiac rhythm and to detect the presence of murmurs.
  • A resting electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess the electrical activity of the heart and to detect the presence of irregular rhythm.
  • A complete cardiac ultrasound evaluation (echocardiogram) to examine the valves, muscle, and heart function.

Continuous electrocardiographic recordings, for a period up to 24 hours, can also be used for the detection of intermittent arrhythmias. This procedure requires an overnight stay in the hospital.

Horses are often referred to our hospital for poor performance. Although musculoskeletal and respiratory system diseases are more common causes of reduced athletic ability, certain heart conditions can also lead to the development of exercise intolerance. In some cases, an exercise test is crucial for the detection of exercise-induced cardiovascular dysfunction.

A Holter cardiac monitor can be fitted to your horse for noninvasive, 24-hour electrocardiogram monitoring to enable our clinicians to assess your horse's heart rate and rhythm and to analyze data directly related to the heart's function. This technology helps in the assessment of congenital abnormalities, cardiac rhythm issues, and heart failure.

Appointments and referrals: 703-771-6800

To schedule an appointment, refer a patient, or inquire about our clinical services, please call 703-771-6800 or email