Short-term Heart Rate Variability Analysis in Healthy Dogs of Different Ages
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Background: The modulation of heart rate by autonomic nervous system may be evaluated by the heart rate variability (HRV), which illustrates the fluctuations between RR intervals. To evaluate this analysis, the intervals between 2 QRS complexes are measured. In general, high HRV values are expected in healthy individuals; otherwise, low values are indicative of organism dysfunction. Studies conducted in healthy humans show that HRV suffers reduction with ageing and that there is autonomic immaturity in neonates. The aim of this study was to describe the characteristic pattern of cardiac autonomic behavior in healthy dogs in different age groups through short-term HRV analysis. Materials, Methods & Results: A total of 87 healthy dogs were studied. HRV was analyzed in time and frequency domain, using Holter and heart rate monitor. It was observed that puppies (below one year old) presented a lower parasympathetic predominance and, consequently, lower HRV values on time domain (SDNN, PNN50% e RMSSD) compared to the other 2 groups and on frequency domain (LF, HF and LF/HF) compared to the adult animals group (between 1 and 7-year-old), which presented higher HRV values when compared to the other groups. Elderly dogs (over 8-year-old) exhibited a natural tendency to decrease cardiac parasympathetic HRV indexes. Discussion: The use of the HRV method as a prognostic index and as an arrhythmogenic marker for various canine heart diseases presents interesting perspectives. However, before it may be employed for these purposes, a better understanding should be established regarding the physiological behavior of autonomic cardiac modulation in different age groups to serve as a basis for future analyses. This study observed that puppies presented higher values for HR and, therefore, shorter RR intervals than the other groups (adult and elderly dogs), what was observed on Holter and heart rate monitor methods (HRM). There were significant differences between puppies and the other 2 groups (adults and elderly) for all time-domain variables using both methods (Holter and HRM methods). SDNN was significantly lower in puppies compared to adults and elderly dogs. In addition, both RMSSD and PNN50%, which were more reliable over shorter periods of time, also presented means and medians that were significantly lower in puppies. Regarding frequency-domain HRV parameters observed on Holter method, these indexes were decreased on the elderly group compared to adult dogs, which is a possible effect of aging. Also, puppies revealed lower frequency-domain HRV parameters on both methods when compared to adult dogs. The influence of age on HRV is possibly related to the stage of development of an individual, starting at conception up to the maturity in relation to the mechanisms that cause variations in HR. There are studies in humans that suggest a gradual increase in parasympathetic activity during childhood, followed by a steady decrease as aging occur. The present study observed the same pattern in dogs. The balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is influenced by age in dogs, which alters HRV values in the short-term. The HRV method's analysis is relatively simple and non-invasive for assessing cardiac autonomic function; also, it is widely used in human medicine as a risk measure for sudden cardiac death. The 24-hour HRV analysis is highly challenging, as it is time-consuming, expensive, delays diagnosis, and has a large number of artifacts; in this way, standards for its short-term analysis were developed.