What Is High Blood Pressure in Dogs?
Systolic: the pressure measured during heart contraction
Diastolic: the pressure measured when the heart relaxes
With every beat of the heart, oxygen-rich blood and nutrients are pumped throughout the body and delivered to the tissues. Higher blood pressure, also called systemic hypertension, means a higher workload, or strain, for the heart and vessels, which will cause damage to the vessels themselves as well as damage to other organs such as the eyes, kidneys, and brain.
What Is a Normal Blood Pressure in Dogs?
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure in Dogs
Heart murmurs and clot formation may develop, and blindness can occur suddenly with lesions seen in the retina. There may be blood in the eye, in the urine, or out of the nose (epistaxis). Behavioral changes and weakness, as well as seizures, coma, and death can occur.
Causes of High Blood Pressure in Dogs
Primary, or idiopathic: means the cause is unknown (this cause typically is uncommon in dogs)
Secondary: often attributed to an underlying disease such as:
Dogs with any of the above conditions should have their blood pressure measured in part to treat the condition itself.
- “White coat effect”: Similar to what has been described in humans, this is a short increase in blood pressure often occurring due to fear or anxiety. For example, when your pet is taken to the vet and is clearly nervous or stressed, this will trigger a higher blood pressure than normal during this event. This condition doesn’t require treatment and normalizes when the cause is removed.
How Veterinarians Diagnose High Blood Pressure in Dogs
Direct via arterial measurement: Although the most accurate, this method is also the most invasive (and risky), as it requires puncturing an artery. (This method is typically reserved for dogs in critical condition.)
Indirect oscillometer: Readily available and easy to use, this method is less accurate than direct measurement.
Indirect via Doppler: More accurate than the oscillometric method and easy to use, using a Doppler will enable the vet to obtain only a systolic blood pressure reading.
Prior to diagnosing high blood pressure, multiple readings over the course of a few visits or occurrences should be done, to ensure the accuracy and decrease the “white coat effect.” Measuring trends and allowing the dog to acclimate to the machine and testing can be helpful in decreasing stress-related elevations.
Treatment of High Blood Pressure in Dogs
Recovery and Management of High Blood Pressure in Dogs
Additionally, dogs should be re-examined and their blood pressure measured within a few weeks of starting medication, as the goal of therapy is to obtain a normal blood pressure (<150mmHg). It should be measured again every couple of months thereafter. Follow your veterinarian’s recommended recheck guidelines going forward.
Additional tests such as bloodwork and urine testing may also be recommended at these appointments, which are important to determine any damage to other organs from the disease or side effects of the medication. Your dog probably already has follow-up appointments to manage his other underlying disease.
High Blood Pressure in Dogs FAQs
How can pet parents help their dog with high blood pressure?
How long can dogs live with hypertension?
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