The pulse is more conveniently examined in the larger animals at the artery (the sub maxillary) which passes under the under jaw bone, in a slight groove which lies a little forward of the turn which the under jawbone makes to go upward toward the joint lying a little below the base of the ear. To find it easily, the finger had best be moved backward and forward under the part described until the little groove mentioned is found, and the artery, feeling like a soft cord, is felt. Then, with light pressure, the finger is to be held still upon the part until the beat of the pulse is felt, when its character and the number of beats per minute can be ascertained. It may also be felt at the temporal artery or, in fact, at any place where an artery comes near enough to the surface and has a bone underneath it which is sufficiently near to the surface to permit of light pressure of the artery against it by the finger. It is better, however, to always use the same artery for the examination, when possible, because this gives a better opportunity for the comparison of the pulse of one animal with that of another; and the touch of the examiner thus becomes better educated. The throbbing of the pulse, felt by the finger, are chiefly due to the fact that the artery expands during the contractions of the heart which pumps the blood, and that it returns to its previous condition while the heart is again filling with blood, coming to it from the veins, in preparation for its next stroke.
The Pulse of the Horse is about forty per minute, but this varies
somewhat under conditions of size, age, and breed. The larger or
older the animal is the less frequent the normal pulse, while in highbred horses, as the trotters and thoroughbreds, it beats more frequently, all things considered. So that, under varying circumstances, it is not at all inconsistent with health to find a variation of ten beats per minute; thus in one animal it may be thirty-five, while in another forty-five, and still both be right for the given animal.
The Pulse of the Cow beats from fifty to fifty-five times in the minute, but the declarations of the pulse in these animals in this respect are not greatly to be depended upon, for, while the animal may be in perfect health the pulse may reach seventy or eighty beats. The act of chewing the cud, the various stages of pregnancy, the activity of the milk glands, whether she be eating considerable grain, or none at all, at the particular time, as well as fatness or leanness of the animal, will tend to cause variations which, even so, may be normal for the given animal at the time.
The Pulse of the Sheep is from seventy to eighty beats per minute and subject to the same variation as that of the cow, but in a much less degree, as will be easily appreciated, without further description.
The Pulse of the Dog ranges from eighty to one hundred, depending upon his age, size and breed, as already described.
In health, and when the animal has been at rest for some time in a medium temperature, there is nearly a uniform relation between the frequency of the pulse and of the breathing movements, the proportion being about one respiration to three or four pulsations.
There are four variations in the character of the pulse which should be noticed here:
First. As regards the number of beats within a given time: frequent or infrequent.
Second. As regards the relative time which seems to be occupied by each beat and the interval between them: quick or slow.
Third. As regards the apparent dilatation of the artery: large
Fourth. As regards the compressibility of the artery by the finger: hard or soft.
Symptoms Afforded by the Variation in the
The Frequent Pulse. Any increase in the number of beats beyond the normal, for the given animal, indicates some degree of excitement of the heart, which may be due to simple exercise, in which case it is normal and amounts to nothing as a symptom of disease. Otherwise it indicates a fevered condition; a long continued pulse of this kind shows a serious illness, in which instances the increasing gravity of the case will be indicated not only by the increase in frequency, but, as the weakness of the animal increases,the pulse will become smaller in volume, thus showing that the heart participates in the general weakness, which, in its turn, is due to the cause which has given rise to the fevered condition.
Excessive evacuations of blood, urine, or from the bowels, Will
cause a greater frequency of the pulse, which generally bears a direct relation to the danger of the situation.
The Quick Pulse indicates nervous irritability or debility, and, if continued, little strength. Men a quick beat followed by an abrupt cessation, with a comparatively long interval, is present, it indicates extreme nervous irritability or, rarely, an organic disease of the heart.
The Slow or Long Pulse indicates a plethoric condition of the body; a functional disturbance of the heart due to certain stomach troubles, in which cases the pulse beat is often lost, at varying intervals (irregular intermittence). Men accompanied by infrequency, some disorder of the brain, as compression of that organ, from some cause or other, and occasionally to organic heart disease. These conditions are not commonly alarming and may generally be relieved by a good dose of cathartic medicine. If organic heart disease be the cause, the plethoric condition of body is not usually present, in addition to which the beats of the heart will commonly be found to be in excess of those of the pulse.
A Large Pulse indicates a prolonged and forcible contraction of the heart from some cause, to be ascertained by further examination. It may be associated with either strength or feebleness of the pulsations. In a large, strong pulse the artery is not easily compressible under the finger; it indicates the first stages of some painful disorder, as founder in the feet of horses. In a large, feeble pulse there is a weak impulse, and although the full size of the artery is easily felt, its walls are quite compressible under the finger; it indicates either general debility, as in anemic or bloodless conditions of the body or debility of the heart.
The Small Pulse is recognized when the artery seems full, although the impulse is felt to be like a very small cord or wire running through it. This condition may result from some internal congestion, as of the lungs, from feeble contractions of the heart, or from great hardness of the arterial coats, as in lockjaw or strychnine poisoning.
A Hard Pulse is that property by which the artery resists compression and results from a contraction of the muscular coats of the arterial walls. Hardness of the pulse is often associated with smallness; it is then termed corded, wiry, or thready; this condition is often met with in the earlier stages of inflammatory diseases, particularly during the occurrence of a fever chill; in all dangerous inflammations of serous membranes, as that of the membrane lining of the heart (endocarditis), or the abdominal cavity (peritonitis), or covering the uterus (metro peritonitis).
It may be shown in cases of hypertrophy of the left side of the heart and so be present independently of any inflammatory disorder.
A Soft Pulse, readily recognized by the feebleness of the impulse and compressibility of the arterial wall, is generally accompanied by smallness, and indicates oncoming death as a result of some progressive exhaustive disorder; the heart's impulse is slight, the tensity of the artery is diminished, and the volume of the blood is small.
In order to have a strong, good pulse, there must be vigor of the heart; steady resistance to pressure on the part of the arterial walls, and enough good blood in the body. There may be a sharp, forcible beat, but if this is not sustained by a certain amount of subsequent pressure, it indicates irritation rather than energy. A contracted pulse, however sharp the impulse, cannot be called a strong one. A strong pulse is considered a sign of an active, vigorous state of the system.
The pulse of a dying animal is nearly always small, very rapid and thready; without force or fullness. It may become imperceptible before death; a small pulse of over one hundred and twenty to the minute is difficult to count with precision.
Pulsation of the Veins is often seen in the jugulars of cattle, especially during rumination and is quite compatible with health. If the neck of a horse having a lean neck is extended, by lifting his head up from the chin considerably, there may be an appearance of a jugular pulse; this, however, arises from a beating of the artery (carotid), lying immediately underneath the vein, made visible by the parts being tensed and pressed together. Otherwise pulsation of the jugular veins is ordinarily explained by an insufficient closing of some of the valves of the heart (tricuspid); thus allowing a certain amount of the blood, coming to the heart, to be sent back into the veins. This is an organic disease of the heart and, practically, incurable.
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