8.4 Sudden death
Sudden death in horses is frequently attributed to cardiac disease. However surveys have shown that in many cases there is no identifiable cause of death. It can be postulated that malignant arrhythmias may result in sudden death with no abnormal findings at PM; however, it may never be possible to prove or disprove this theory.
Usually animals are found dead in a box or in a field. Occasionally, animals collapse and die while at exercise or immediately after exercise. The most commonly identified causes of sudden death may not have been detectable prior to death even with a thorough examination; however, owners are usually conto identify a reason. Post-mortem examination (PM) should be carried out with great care because significant cardiac lesions may be difficult to find without careful observation (see section 2.4.1). Frequently PMs are unrewarding and, if conducted thoroughly, are likely to be expensive. In particular, toxicological tests are extremely expensive. Owners should be warned of these facts before a PM is performed, particularly if they are suspicious of malicious causes because these are very difficult to diagnose conclusively and owners are likely to be frustrated.
8.4.1 Causes of sudden death