Treatment Options For Horses With Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart arrhythmia found in horses, but it’s also the one that most impacts a horse’s athletic performance. The University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana offers a unique way to treat the condition: transvenous electrical cardioversion (TVEC).

Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as “AFib,” is an electrical disorder that affects the heart’s rhythm; the top two chambers of the heart (the atria) don’t contract properly, preventing blood from moving to the rest of the body efficiently. This affects how hard a horse can work before he tires. It isn’t known why horses get AFib, but their large hearts and slow heart rate could predispose them to loss of electrical coordination.

The most common sign of AFib is a sudden, dramatic decrease in performance. Occasionally a nosebleed can also be seen. A veterinarian should be contacted when this occurs. As part of the exam, the vet will listen to the horse’s heart, which is how most AFib in horses is detected. The vet can confirm that the horse is experiencing AFib by performing an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Horses with AFib can be given oral quinidine to restore proper heart rhythm, but this medication does have side effects, including laminitis, swelling of the nose and even death. Horses given this medication that don’t have heart disease typically return to the correct heart rhythm.

The TVEC procedure can also return a horse’s heart to a normal rhythm. This treatment only takes place at specialty equine hospitals, including the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Once the horse has had a full work-up and been deemed clear for surgery, a catheter is placed in the horse’s jugular vein, though which two small electrodes are fed. The electrodes then administer a shock to the heart to convert it back to its normal rhythm.

This is the same shock given to humans with AFib via paddles—horses have too much muscle to let the paddles work from the outside. Delivering the shock directly to a horse’s heart muscle is effective; TVEC has a 95 percent success rate in converting the heart back to its normal rhythm.

Read more at University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

The post Treatment Options For Horses With Atrial Fibrillation appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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