By requesting a prepurchase examination, potential purchasers are asking the veterinary surgeon to provide an opinion on the suitability of a particular horse for a specified intended purpose. The identification and significance of cardiac murmurs is one element of such examinations. Diagnosis of cardiac murmurs can be challenging – for example, a murmur could be due to normal physiology or it may be the result of disease, which may or may not limit a horse's performance or safety, and, furthermore, the relevance of this will depend on the intended use of the animal. However, the ground rules for a prepurchase examination are similar to those of any clinical evaluation – the key is to establish a specific diagnosis, which must then be put into context in terms of a prospective purchaser's requirements. To regard all horses with abnormal murmurs as unsuitable for purchase would not be in the interests of possible buyers. This article describes the clinical approach to detecting and assessing the significance of heart murmurs in horses as part of a prepurchase examination. It also highlights the importance of recording the findings accurately and providing a thorough explanation of all the issues, including any potential for progression of a condition and how abnormal results may or may not affect the safety, performance, resale and insurance of an animal.
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