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Hypertension or High Blood Pressure in Pets

Did you know that your senior dog or cat can suffer from high blood pressure? It’s not just a human problem!

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force exerted by blood against walls of blood vessels within the body. Sustained high blood pressure is known as systemic hypertension. An animal’s blood pressure is regulated by complex interactions between hormones, the central nervous system, the heart and the kidneys.

Adverse effects of high blood pressure can result in damage to the brain, eyes, kidneys, and heart. High blood pressure can cause retinal detachment and blindness. The kidneys can be damaged by the increased blood pressure within the tiny filtering cells called glomeruli, resulting in cell death and kidney failure. The heart pumps faster and harder, resulting in increased workload and possible heart failure.

There are two types of hypertension, primary, in which no underlying cause can be found, and secondary, which may result from kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, certain medications, and Cushing’s disease. Fear and anxiety can cause a brief increase in blood pressure (“white coat syndrome”).

Symptoms of high blood pressure include no visible symptoms at all, changes in eyesight, or sudden blindness, racing heart, coughing, or weakness, seizures, head tilt, circling, lethargy, or restlessness.

The measurement of blood pressure is fairly straightforward. Just as would be done at your own pet clinic your veterinarian can measure blood pressure as part of an exam, using a cuff placed on an arm, leg, or even a tail. It is best taken when your dog or cat has acclimatized a bit to being in the exam room and usually several readings are taken with the first few disregarded in case of nervous anxiety.

If your pet is found to have high blood pressure, there are several medications available which can help bring it back down to normal again. Catching high blood pressure early can help prevent many problems in the future!

Written by: Dr. Celeste Forgeron DVM 2015

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