Aneurysm in Horses

Anna O'Brien, DVM
Written by:
Published: March 2, 2012

Aneurysm in Horses

An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning of a weakened arterial wall in the body. If the ballooning becomes big enough, it will burst, leading to massive hemorrhaging and death. An aneurysm has no warning signs; therefore most horses die of the condition before it is diagnosed.

Symptoms and Types

The main type of aneurysm seen mostly in horses is the aortic aneurysm. Aortic aneurysms occur when a portion of the aorta, the large artery that comes straight from the heart, develops a thin wall. If enough pressure is placed on this thin area (such as during a time of extremely high heart rate), this area may burst, leading to almost instantaneous bleed-out. This is seen most commonly seen in Thoroughbred racehorses, as their heart rates and blood pressures are extremely high during a race. Cerebral hemorrhages from a ruptured aneurysm (also called a stroke) are not as common in horses as they are in humans.

Signs of a ruptured aortic aneurysm are dramatic and include sudden collapse, pale mucous membranes, and death. 

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made post mortem (after death). There are no warning signs of an aneurysm, and once it bursts, the horse cannot survive.

Treatment

There is no treatment for this condition.

Prevention

Prevention of this condition is very difficult, if not impossible, given its insidious nature. Fortunately, this condition is not very common and most horse owners should not be overly concerned about it.


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