High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that occurs when arterial blood pressure is consistently higher than normal. It can affect pets just as it affects humans, and it can cause problems in important organs and systems–including the heart, kidneys, eyes and nervous system. When caught early on and treated aggressively, high blood pressure can be well managed so as not to adversely affect the pet’s health and life.

Pet Heart Health

Regardless of what kind it is and how it manifests, pet heart disease is understandably one of the more difficult health conditions that pets and their owners can encounter. It is key for pet owners to understand and look for symptoms of these conditions, and then work together with their veterinarian to find the treatment option that works best for their pet.

Some of the most prominent symptoms of high blood pressure include:

  • Seizures
  • Circling
  • Disorientation
  • Blindness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Retinal detachment
  • Hemorrhage of the eye
  • Blood in the urine
  • Protein in the urine
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Swollen or shrunken kidneys
  • Heart murmurs
  • Weakness on one side of the body or in the legs
  • Rolling of the eyeballs

High blood pressure can result from another disease, in which case it is referred to as secondary hypertension, or it can manifest on its own, in which case it is referred to as primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension, which actually makes up the vast majority of hypertension cases in pets, can result from many different things, including renal disease, diabetes, hormonal fluctuation, and hyperthyroidism. Obviously, recognizing and managing these illnesses through proper, effective treatment is the best way to prevent secondary hypertension from developing. It is not clear what can cause primary hypertension in pets, but it may be at least partially a genetic disorder since there have been instances where the offspring of pets suffering from hypertension have also suffered from hypertension. Studies have indicated that between half a percent and ten percent of dogs anywhere from two to fourteen years old suffer from some form of high blood pressure.

Treatment for High Blood Pressure

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from high blood pressure, and certainly if they are displaying any of the above symptoms of high blood pressure, it is important to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will take your pet’s blood pressure in much the same way that your medical doctor takes your blood pressure. An inflatable cuff can be placed around the leg or tail and while the pet is kept as still as possible, blood pressure measuring instruments will be used to check the pet’s blood pressure. In the case of dogs, where high blood pressure is a more common ailment, normal blood pressure readings are around 150/95 or lower. When the reading moves to 150/99 or 159/95, your veterinarian will want to intervene to prevent further elevation. When the reading moves to 160/119 or 179/100 it is important for the pet to begin treatment as soon as possible to help prevent organ damage. Once the reading moves to 180/120 it is vital that your pet receives immediate treatment in order to limit the risk of severe complications. It is normal for your veterinarian to take multiple blood pressure measurements in order to account for the pet’s excitement or nervousness.

Once it has been determined that your pet is suffering from high blood pressure, your veterinarian will either treat the primary cause (if it is known, as in the case of secondary hypertension) or may simply prescribe a medication that will help to normalize their blood pressure levels. The most common blood pressure medication for pets is either a calcium channel blocker or beta-blocker. Your veterinarian may also recommend that you switch your pet’s diet to one that is lower in sodium.

Heart-healthy pets tend to be more comfortable and enjoy a better quality of life than those who are suffering any degree of heart disease. In working closely with your veterinarian, you will be able to provide the proper care to your pet so that they become and remain heart-healthy.