The records of 116 cattle suffering from cardiac disease were examined retrospectively. On the basis of the results of postmortem examinations there were 52 cases of endocarditis, 39 of pericarditis and 25 congenital cardiac defects. The most useful clinical tool for differentiating between these conditions was auscultation of the heart. The cases of pericarditis were characterised by muffled heart sounds, and the cases of endocarditis and congenital cardiac defects were characterised by a cardiac murmur. Endocarditis could be differentiated from congenital cardiac defects by the presence of a jugular pulse, venous distension, oedema, a reduced appetite, pain and polyarthritis, whereas congenital defects were associated with conformational abnormalities. These two conditions could also be differentiated by differences in the plasma sodium concentration, the albumin:globulin ratio, red blood cell count, lymphocyte count and haematocrit. The ability to differentiate between these three groups of cardiac diseases can help the veterinary practitioner in deciding whether treatment, economic salvage (slaughter for human consumption) or disposal (slaughter not for human consumption) is likely to be the best option.