|Atrial premature complexes (APC) were identified in 16 cows over a 2-year period. Fourteen cows had concurrent gastrointestinal disease.
Variation in the intensity of the first heart sound and an occasionally irregular heart rhythm were evident during thoracic auscultation.
Neither cardiac murmurs nor pulse deficits were detected in any cows, and clinical signs of heart failure were lacking.
Three cows had APC immediately prior to or after development of atrial fibrillation.
The heart rate when APC were diagnosed ranged from 48 to 124 beats/min (mean, 77 +/- 20 beats/min), and the APC frequency ranged from less than 1 to 23/min (mean 9.4 +/- 8.0).
The P-wave morphologic characteristics in 4 cows with APC was abnormal. The coupling index of the APC varied between 0.44 and 0.95, with a mean of 0.73.
Aberrant ventricular activation was usually associated with a short coupling interval (coupling index less than 0.60) and was observed in 3 cows.
Ten cows were determined to be hypocalcemic and 4 cows hypokalemic when APC were identified.
Atrial ectopic activity could not be detected in 12 cows after resolution of the concurrent gastrointestinal disorder or electrolyte abnormality.
Atrial premature complexes may be a functional cardiac disorder in cattle, unrelated to structural heart disease.
The potential for APC to progress to sustained atrial arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation should be considered.
Source: Constable PD, Muir WW 3rd, Bonagura JD, Rings DM, St Jean G. (1990): Clinical and electrocardiographic characterization of cattle with atrial premature complexes. In: J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1990 Nov 1;197(9):1163-9.
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