High Blood Pressure in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
We mentioned in several articles that dogs and humans share similar health problems. One of those problems is high blood pressure or hypertension. Human hypertension can be caused by unhealthy diet, habits, smoking, obesity, or underlying health issues. Dogs might get it for the same reasons we can. If you’ve noticed something weird going on with your dog and you suspect they’re having health issues, here are a few things you should know about high blood pressure in dogs.
Blood pressure is the pressure against the artery walls when the heart contracts and empties itself of blood, as well as when the heart relaxes and fills with blood.
Systole is the contraction of the heart, and systolic pressure is the maximum pressure against the artery walls. Diastole is when the heart relaxes, and diastolic pressure is the lowest pressure against the artery walls.
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Measuring your dog's blood pressure is similar to taking your own blood pressure. In most cases, your dog will be taken to a quiet room and gently laid on their side to calm down. If your veterinarian uses the Doppler measurement method, they will usually shave a small patch of fur on the underside of your dog's metacarpal (wrist) or metatarsal (ankle) and tape a small probe in place. A suitable-sized cuff will then be placed above this area and inflated, just as your own doctor would.
Your veterinarian will listen for the pulsing sound of the blood as the cuff is deflated. At this point, the systolic blood pressure will be recorded (unfortunately, determining diastolic blood pressure in pets with this technique is very difficult and unreliable). In most cases, several measurements will be taken over a few minutes, and the results will be averaged.
The term "systemic hypertension" refers to high blood pressure that affects the entire body. This entails a sustained rise in systolic pressure of 140mmHg or higher, a rise in diastolic pressure of 90mmHg or higher, or both.
Dogs, like humans, can have temporary increases in blood pressure due to stress, such as being in a veterinary hospital. It is critical to take several readings and keep the environment as quiet as possible. When hypertension in dogs is caused by an underlying disease, it is referred to as secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension occurs when no underlying condition is present or can be identified.
Hypertension is more common in older dogs, which is consistent with the progression of underlying diseases such as chronic kidney disease or excessive levels of steroids produced by the adrenal glands in dogs with Cushing's disease. Younger dogs with kidney disease due to infection (such as leptospirosis) or a developmental kidney abnormality may develop hypertension.
Some dog breeds are more prone to hypertension than others. Researchers believe genes play a role in systemic hypertension, but for now, we don’t entirely know how. Dog breeds prone to high blood pressure are;
All health issues will present themselves with certain clinical signs or symptoms. High blood pressure will affect your dog, and symptoms should be reasonably easy to spot. Hypertension symptoms include;
- Sudden blindness
- Bleeding inside the eyeball
- Persistently dilated pupils.
- Detached retinas are associated with nervous system symptoms such as depression
- Head tilt
- Wobbly or uncoordinated movements (known as ataxia)
- Weakness or partial paralysis
- Rapid eye movements (nystagmus)
- Bloody urine (hematuria)
- Nosebleeds and nasal passage bleeding (epistaxis)
- Abnormal heart rhythms or murmurs in the heart
Primary hypertension has no known cause. Secondary hypertension accounts for the vast majority of hypertension in dogs. It can be caused by kidney disease, adrenal gland disease, diabetes mellitus (less common), pheochromocytoma (adrenal gland tumor that is extremely rare), or central nervous system disease (very rare).
The treatment of hypertensive dogs is dependent on the underlying cause if there is one. If the dog develops a serious hypertension-related complication, such as acute kidney failure or eye bleeding, they may require hospitalization. In general, once any underlying condition is managed correctly, medication and nutrition play an essential role in restoring blood pressure to normal levels.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (like enalapril), angiotensin II receptor antagonists (ARBs), beta-blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers are some of the medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure in dogs. Depending on the response to initial therapy, additional medications may be required. Therapeutic nutrition is widely recognized as an essential component of long-term management.
A dog with hypertension should have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg or less and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg or less. Periodic laboratory testing will be required to monitor medication side effects and disease progression. Unfortunately, high blood pressure might result in complications. Those complications include;
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Retinal degeneration and blindness
The progression of hypertension in dogs is determined by the underlying cause. The risks of potential complications are reduced when blood pressure is well managed. Medication for hypertension is typically a lifelong commitment that can be adjusted as needed over time. The prognosis is reasonably good if the owners are responsible and stick to the recommended treatment and medications. Dogs usually react pretty well to treatment. However, treatment will probably last for the rest of the dog’s life.
World Dog Finder team