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  • 1 Szent István University Equine Department and Clinic Dóra major H-2225 Üllő Hungary
  • 2 Szent István University Department of Pathology Budapest Hungary
  • 3 Hungarian Academy of Sciences - Large Animal Clinical Research Group Üllő Hungary
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Monitoring fetal heart rate (FHR) and fetal heart rate variability (FHRV) helps to understand and evaluate normal and pathological conditions in the foal. The aim of this study was to establish normal heart rate reference values for the ongoing equine pregnancy and to perform a heart rate variability (HRV) time-domain analysis in Lipizzaner mares. Seventeen middle- and late-term (days 121–333) pregnant Lipizzaner mares were examined using fetomaternal electrocardiography (ECG). The mean FHR (P = 0.004) and the standard deviation of FHR (P = 0.012) significantly decreased during the pregnancy. FHR ± SD values decreased from 115 ± 35 to 79 ± 9 bpm between months 5 and 11. Our data showed that HRV in the foal decreased as the pregnancy progressed, which is in contrast with the findings of earlier equine studies. The standard deviation of normal-normal intervals (SDNN) was higher (70 ± 25 to 166 ± 108 msec) than described previously. The root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) decreased from 105 ± 69 to 77 ± 37 msec between the 5th and 11th month of gestation. Using telemetric ECG equipment, we could detect equine fetal heartbeat on day 121 for the first time. In addition, the large differences observed in the HR values of four mare-fetus pairs in four consecutive months support the assumption that there might be ‘high-HR’ and ‘low-HR’ fetuses in horses. It can be concluded that the analysis of FHR and FHRV is a promising tool for the assessment of fetal well-being but the applicability of these parameters in the clinical setting and in studs requires further investigation.

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