Tracking your pet’s highs and lows
Pets don’t pay mortgages. They don’t smoke, and they don’t have to worry about cholesterol. But they can develop high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause a variety of health problems in humans—and in our pets. Fortunately, we now have equipment that enables us to screen your pet for this “silent killer.”
Hypertension in pets
As in people, high blood pressure in pets may be due to age, disease or genetics. It usually has no symptoms of its own. If undetected and untreated, it can lead to many serious health problems. High blood pressure is associated with such conditions as:
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Blindness/detached retina
- Blood clots
- Chronic renal (kidney) failure
- Cushing’s disease
- Excessive growth hormones
- Excessive red blood cells
- Glomerular disease, a disease of the kidney filtration system
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
What to expect
Regular blood pressure tests are an important part of your pet’s routine wellness visit if your veterinarian identified symptoms on a previous visit or if you pet has a condition associated with high blood pressure. We can test your pet’s blood pressure quickly and painlessly, using an inflatable cuff similar to the type used for humans. The cuff fits around your pet’s foot, foreleg or base of the tail. If your pet has a long or dense coat, we may shave the area. Inflating the cuff temporarily blocks blood flow through a superficial artery. After we release the cuff, an ultrasonic probe taped over the artery beeps to give us the systolic pressure—the number at the “top” of a human blood pressure reading. Obtaining a diastolic blood pressure in a pet would require inserting a catheter, so we make do with just the systolic pressure. Ideally your pet’s systolic pressure will be below 160.
If your pet is nervous, we may take the measurement several times to ensure that the reading is accurate and not higher than usual due to anxiety.
If we identify hypertension, we may need to perform additional diagnostic tests to determine the cause. Sometimes treating the underlying disease will return the blood pressure to normal. In other cases, the same drugs used to stabilize blood pressure in humans can be effective in pets at the appropriate doses.