• Open Access

Echocardiographic Changes in Heart Size in Hypohydrated Horses


  • This work was performed at The New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania, 382 West Street Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348, USA. Abstract previously presented at 2009 BEVA Conference.

Corresponding author: Claire Underwood, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Gatton, QL 4343, Australia; e-mail: claire.underwood@uqconnect.edu.au.


Background: Hypohydration causes transient echocardiographic changes in pigs, dogs, humans, and cats. These changes mask the diagnosis of some cardiac diseases (valvular regurgitation, dilated cardiomyopathy) and promote the diagnosis of others (hypertropic cardiomyopathy and infiltrative disease), thus inhibiting accurate echocardiographic evaluation.

Objectives: To describe the echocardiographic changes associated with hypohydration in normal horses.

Animals: Ten adult horses without detectable cardiac disease.

Methods: Experimental study. Echocardiographic examinations were performed on horses in the euhydrated and hypohydrated states. Horses were hypohydrated by combined water deprivation and furosemide administration until a 4–7% reduction in bodyweight was achieved. Statistical analyses were performed by paired t-tests.

Results: Hypohydration decreased left ventricular internal diameter in systole (0.8 ± 0.6 cm) and diastole (1.7 ± 0.9 cm), left atrial diameter (1.5 ± 0.4 cm) and left ventricular volume (490 ± 251 mL) (P-values < .01), and increased septal wall thickness in diastole (0.6 ± 0.3 cm), free wall thickness in diastole (0.5 ± 0.3 cm), mean wall thickness (0.5 ± 0.2 cm) and relative wall thickness (0.2 ± 0.1 cm) (P-values < .01).

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Hypohydration produces changes in left ventricular and atrial size that could mask or promote the severity of cardiac disease. The thickened, “pseudohypertrophied” appearance of the left ventricle in hypohydrated horses could affect interpretation of echocardiographic variables that are applied to the prediction of athletic performance. Echocardiography may prove a noninvasive method of monitoring volume status and response to fluid therapy in hypovolemic horses.