Message Number: FHL8603 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Sandra Fox
Date: 2009-04-06 11:27:52 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] heart block

Heart block is a conduction issue, like the electricity coming into your
house. An electrical impulse is sent out by the sino atrial node that tells
the top two chambers of the heart to beat. That is like the power coming
from the power line to your house. The impulse then goes to a node, or a
junction box.

Normally, the impulse continues to the bottom chambers of the heart, but
sometimes they are blocked at the node. Hence "heart block." This is like
the junction box shorting out from time to time, only allowing some of the
power to enter the house.

So, the top two chambers of the heart beat normally. These are the weaker
contractions and you won't feel them. With second degree block, some of the
impulses get through and you wind up with a slower than normal, irregular
heart rate. With a third degree block no impulses get through.

However, the body (even in ferrets) has a wonderful safety mechanism. If
the impulse cannot get through the node, the node and ventricles (lower
chambers) can actually produce their own impulses. They are much slower
than normal, but regular.

I don't know the normal ferret ranges, but in humans the normal heart rate
is 60-80 at rest. If the impulse starts at the node (or junction) it is
40-60 and if it starts in the ventricles it's 20-40.

An EKG will tell right away what type of block it is by the way the beats
look. Sometimes it will change, usually because the blocks are progressive
and blocks will worsen over time. In a human, a pace maker would be put
in. I don't know if there is another med out there that may have a better
effect and be safe for ferrets. Most heart medications are very strong,
even in small doses.

Good luck.


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