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Vertebral Heart Scale

Published: 5/15/2017

Look for expert instruction on what to measure and how to calculate vertebral heart size in this thorough article in which Drs Stacey Fox-Alvarez and Amara Estrada explain the uses of the vertebral heart scale and just how to calculate it accurately.

The vertebral heart scale system (ie, vertebral heart size) was developed as a means to objectively evaluate cardiac size among dogs of different breeds and thoracic conformations.


Uses of Vertebral Heart Scale


The VHS was established to create a more objective way of diagnosing cardiomegaly via thoracic radiography. Individual dogs can have values that fall outside of the normal range without cardiac disease, so it should not be used as the only means of diagnosing cardiac disease in any given patient.

In addition to a thorough history and physical examination, VHS can be used to raise clinical suspicion of heart disease. VHS is useful for monitoring a patient in which heart disease is suspected, or in tracking changes in progressive cardiac disease over time.

VHS has been shown to correlate with other means of measuring cardiomegaly (ie, ECG, echocardiography) in dogs with progressively increasing heart size, and it is considered by some to be the gold standard in determining cardiomegaly in dogs1. The authors believe many dogs with presumptive MVD can be managed effectively by use of a thorough physical examination and basic diagnostics, such as a VHS and measurement of blood pressure. As guidelines for the treatment of heart disease in veterinary medicine evolve, it will become increasingly important to accurately stage patients with these conditions to determine when medical treatment is indicated. VHS calculation can be an important component to the staging of cardiac disease.

Learn the usefulness and exactly how to calculate the vertebral heart score for diagnosing and monitoring cardiomegaly.

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