Association between Disease Severity, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Serum Cortisol Concentrations in Horses with Acute Abdominal Pain
Equine Clinic, Veterinary Department, Freie University Berlin, 14163 Berlin, Germany
Large Animal Clinical Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, 2407 River Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 July 2020 / Revised: 27 August 2020 / Accepted: 1 September 2020 / Published: 2 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Equids
Acute abdominal pain is a major cause for emergency treatment in horses and associated with a high stress level leading to an increased serum cortisol concentration. Stress can also be assessed by analyzing the heart rate variability (HRV). We investigated whether the stress level was different between horses with different causes of abdominal pain and, therefore, demanding a different treatment strategy. Heart rate, its variability in the time domain analyses, and cortisol level indicated a decrease in the stress level the day after admission and the day of discharge from the hospital in comparison to admission for both conservatively and surgically treated patients. However, such changes, over time, were not seen in horses that were euthanized during the hospitalization. Furthermore, the difference in the parameters measured between horses that were eventually euthanized and those that survived was best visible the day after admission. Therefore, we concluded that HRV can give further important information on the stress level in horses with colic and might be helpful in assessing possible outcome. However, further studies are required to assess the validity of HRV analyses in horses with colic.