Auscult Heart
Link to CAL cardiology page.


heartaus2.jpg (48409 bytes)The apex of the heart lies caudal to the elbow at the sixth intercostal space.  The base of the heart lies cranial to the elbow.  The aortic, pulmonic and mitral valves are ausculted on the left side of the heart.  Insert your stethoscope deep under the axilla to find the pulmonic valve area between the shoulder and the elbow at the left third intercostal space.  The aortic valve area is located at the left fourth intercostal space at the level of the shoulder.  The mitral valve is located between the shoulder and elbow at the fifth intercostal space. Auscultation should take place in a reasonably quiet environment.   The most successful way of examining the heart  is to place the bell of the stethoscope sufficiently forward between the upper foreleg and the chest wall.  The heart is located in the ventral part of the thorax between the third and sixth ribs.  Careful interpretation of rate, rhythm, and heart sounds is necessary.  It is also advised to observe the jugular vein and mammary vein for any signs of distention or pulsation while you are ausculting the heart.  Most dairy cows with cardiac disease have tachycardia at rest, but many diseases result in high heart rates (such as infectious diseases).  Bradycardia (40-60 bpm) is often associated with vagal indigestion.   Muffled heart sounds occur with pericardial and pleural effusion.  Increased intensity of the heart sounds is associated with increased cardiac contractility.   Cardiac diseases such as bacterial endocarditis and some cases of lymphosarcoma can be accompanied by fevers.  The most common cause of murmurs is bacterial endocarditis.  The most common valve is the tricuspid on the right side followed by the mitral valve on the left.  Cardiac diseases may occur secondarily to GI diseases such as "hardware", traumatic reticulopericarditis.  Muffled heart sounds with or without a washing machine-like murmur, distended jugular veins, jugular pulse and brisket edema are compatable findings with hardware disease.  Atrial fibrillation causes a irregularly, irregular heart beat, and is generally associated with a GI problem such as an LDA.

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Brisket and ventral edema.

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Bottle jaw.

Edema in the neck and brisket area are often associated with cardiac disease, or low plasma protein as is seen with Johne's disease, enteritis, or parasitism.

The jugular and abdominal veins should be palpated to assess the venous system.  Distention of these veins are indicative of increased venous pressure.   Assessment of the jugular pulses is best done with the head elevated and it is normal to see pulses at the level of the heart.  With the head being elevated, make sure nothing is occluding the jugular veins to give a false positive.  The vein will fail to empty with the occlusion of the vein with your hand and then the release of the occlusion when cardiac disease is present.

* Normal resting heart rate is 60 - 80 bpm.  (Calves = 110 - 120 bpm.)

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Copyright 1999-2001
New Bolton Center Field Service Department
Students:  Keith Javic - Class of 2003, C. Nikki Conroy - Class of 2003