Hypertension: The Silent Killer

As you’re likely well aware, high blood pressure is a serious health concern in human patients. But you may not know that your dog or cat can also be affected by high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Hypertension is a condition in which the blood vessels have become too narrow to handle the pressure of the blood flowing within them. Hypertension is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, organ damage, and a host of other potentially life-threatening conditions.

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It may seem odd that your pet could be affected by high blood pressure. After all, dogs and cats generally eat balanced diets and get plenty of rest and exercise. Stress is another risk factor for hypertension, and pets’ lives certainly don’t seem stressful to us.

Typically, high blood pressure is a secondary condition in pets, which means that it is brought on by an underlying condition. Primary hypertension (high blood pressure not caused by an underlying condition) is relatively rare in animals.

If your dog or cat has high blood pressure, it may be an indication that they are suffering from an endocrine disorder such as hyperthyroidism (in cats), diabetes, or Cushing’s disease. It may also be a sign of chronic kidney disease or heart disease. Obesity can also cause high blood pressure.

Recognizing Hypertension in Pets

High blood pressure can be difficult for pet owners to recognize, but certain symptoms may indicate that hypertension is a problem for your pet. They include behavioral changes, a lack of energy, blindness or poor vision, and nosebleeds.

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from hypertension, then you’d be well advised to pay a visit to your local veterinarian. At the vet’s office, blood pressure is typically measured using a Doppler probe. Usually, only the systolic pressure is measured; diastolic, or resting blood pressure is difficult to measure in pets.

And just in case you were wondering: yes, your veterinarian will take the “white coat effect” into account. Pets get every bit as anxious at the doctor’s office as some people do, and seasoned veterinarians make allowances for blood pressure that may be heightened due to the stress of a vet visit.

Treating High Blood Pressure in Dogs and Cats

As previously mentioned, hypertension in pets is often a secondary condition caused by something else. If that is the case, then treating the underlying condition may resolve the secondary hypertension, though the animal’s blood pressure may need to be managed while treatment is underway.

In mild cases, a reduction in caloric intake or a low-sodium diet may be all that’s needed to regulate blood pressure. In more severe cases of high blood pressure, veterinarians may prescribe a vasodilator or diuretic similar to those a physician might prescribe to a human patient.

Here’s to Your Pet’s Health!

High blood pressure can pose a serious threat to your pet. Thankfully, it’s a treatable condition that, if caused by another issue, often resolves itself. If you think your pet may have high blood pressure, make an appointment with your vet. Better safe than sorry!


Author: Giano Panzarella

[Photo via: Pexels]