Along with heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature, blood pressure is a measurement that is essential in assessing a pet’s vital physical functions. It is the result of blood volume pumped by the heart in one minute multiplied by the resistance that the left side of the heart has to overcome in order to get blood to all the pet’s vital organs. Both the volume of blood pumped by the heart and the resistance that has to be overcome can be affected by many different things, not the least of which are medical conditions and stress. This is why measuring a pet’s blood pressure is one of the most important veterinary services.

How Pet Blood Pressure Monitoring Works

There are two main ways that a pet’s blood pressure can be monitored. With direct measurement, the veterinarian places a catheter directly into an artery in a leg. This catheter is connected to a veterinary blood pressure monitor that measures the blood pressure. As one may presume, this type of monitoring is not a routine method of measuring blood pressure, but rather is used in more specific cases–like when the pet is in intensive care for some reason. With indirect measurement, the veterinarian places a cuff around a limb over an artery–much in the same way that human blood pressure is routinely measured. Indirect blood pressure measurement normally includes the use of a Doppler machine or an oscillometer, and it is the far more common blood pressure measurement method.

While there are numerous reasons why your veterinarian would want to monitor your pet’s blood pressure, here are a few of the top reasons:

  • The pet is under anesthesia. Even very healthy pets often go under anesthesia at least once in their life, as in when they are spayed or neutered or receive a thorough dental cleaning. While it is very important to use anesthesia for these and other surgeries, the fact is that anesthesia does affect a pet’s major organs and systems, including their brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is common during anesthesia and can decrease the level of oxygen that is delivered to major organs. This is why many veterinarians recommend blood pressure monitoring while a pet is under anesthesia.
  • The pet has chronic kidney disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, in pets that are living with chronic kidney disease, can potentially cause faster kidney function decline, more protein leakage into the urine and an increased mortality rate.
  • The pet has heart disease. Hypotension or hypertension can be associated with some types of heart diseases, such as heart muscle disorders and heart valve leakage disorders. Monitoring such a pet’s blood pressure can allow the veterinarian to propose appropriate therapies in order to help counter these conditions and improve the chances of a positive outcome.
  • The pet has hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism, or an excess production of the thyroid hormone, is very common among older cats and it can sometimes lead to hypertension. If the hypertension is left untreated it may elevate to the level where the cat can actually become blind due to retinal hemorrhage or retinal detachment, or both.
  • The pet has Cushing’s disease. Hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease, is a hormone disorder related to elevated levels of cortisol. This is a disease that is fairly common in dogs. Left untreated, Cushing’s disease can lead to hypertension which can result in organ damage if not appropriately addressed and controlled.

Just as other vital signs are measured, especially when a pet is undergoing surgery or suffering from an illness or disease, blood pressure must also be monitored in order to prevent organ and system damage. For more information about blood pressure monitoring and whether it is appropriate for your pet, contact AMC today.