Hypertension in Dogs: The (Blood) Pressure is Rising

Posted by MyDogDoc on

You probably know of a human with high blood pressure, you may even suffer with it yourself, but did you know dogs can get high blood pressure too?

  • Unlike in people, it is usually the result of an underlying condition.

  • If left untreated it can go on to cause a range of problems including damage to the kidneys and eyes and heart disease.

  • Early detection is important to keep your dog healthy.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure refers to the pressure against the walls of arteries (the blood vessels that transport oxygen-carrying blood) during the time the heart contracts and empties itself of blood (systolic pressure- the maximum pressure) and when it relaxes to refill with blood (diastolic pressure- the minimum pressure).

Hypertension, or high blood pressure occurs when your dog’s blood pressure is continuously higher than normal. This puts extra strain on the blood vessels, heart, and other organs.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure often creeps up slowly and the signs may be hard to notice. It can often be difficult to tell there is a problem without measuring blood pressure.

There are a wide range of possible symptoms as hypertension can eventually affect every organ in the body. Some of the signs we see are:

  • Damage to the eyes which can lead to dilated (large) pupils, bleeding in the eyes and sudden blindness.

  • The kidneys are commonly affected which can cause increased thirst and peeing, and sometimes vomiting and lethargy.

  • High blood pressure can cause a heart murmur or even heart failure.

  • It can cause nosebleeds (epistaxis).

  • The nervous system can be affected causing a wide range of signs which may include seizures (fits), circling and disorientation.

Measuring your dog’s blood pressure is very similar to having your own blood pressure measured. Your vet or vet nurse will keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible and will take several blood pressure readings using an inflatable cuff around their front leg or tail.

Why has my dog got high blood pressure?

Once high blood pressure has been diagnosed, the next step is to look for an underlying cause. High blood pressure in dogs is usually the result of another condition.

Dogs can get primary hypertension when the cause of the high blood pressure is unknown. Unlike in people this is rare in our pups.

In around 80% of dogs with high blood pressure there is an underlying cause or disease – this is called secondary hypertension. Conditions often associated with high blood pressure in our dogs are:

  • Kidney disease

  • Diabetes

  • Cushings disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

  • Obesity

  • Adrenal gland tumours

Your vet may need to do more tests, such as blood tests and an ultrasound scan, to diagnose the underlying condition.

How is high blood pressure treated?

If your dog has secondary high blood pressure due to an underlying issue, then treating this underlying disease will help bring their blood pressure back down to normal levels.

  • Your dog may need specific blood pressure medication indefinitely.

  • A low salt diet may be recommended by your vet.

  • Your vet will want to keep a close eye on your pup and check their blood pressure regularly to see how they are responding to medication.

The good news is when blood pressure is well managed, the risks of potential complications for your pup are minimized. Medication for hypertension is generally an ongoing treatment and may need to be adjusted over time.

If you are concerned that your dog may have high blood pressure, speak to your vet as soon as possible. The team at MyDogDoc are always happy to offer advice and reassurance too.

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