Objectives: To investigate the prognostic and diagnostic value of heart rate variability (HRV) using the vasovagal tonus index (VVTI) in dogs suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
Methods: Electrocardiographic (ECG) recordings of 369 patients presented to a referral centre between 1993 and 2006 were reviewed.
Results: VVTI values were calculated from 132 dogs. Lower VVTI values were found in patients in International Small Animal Cardiac Health Council (ISACHC) heart failure (HF) class 2 and 3 compared with class 1. VVTI was found to be positively correlated with survival time (ST) in class 2 and 3 patients. When a cut-off value of 7·59 for VVTI was used, the test could differentiate patients in ISACHC HF class 1 versus 2 and 3 with a sensitivity of 89 per cent and a specificity of 62·5 per cent. The ST for patients with VVTI values less than 7·59 was significantly lower.
Clinical Significance: The VVTI is a useful index, obtained from a standard ECG recording that estimates HRV in dogs and does not require any specific equipment for its calculation. It can be useful as a diagnostic tool to assess the severity of HF and is a useful prognostic tool in dogs with DCM.