High blood pressure or hypertension is a very common health concern with humans. This is mostly due to our high-stress lifestyle, and more often than not, a high-salt or high-fat diet is also to blame. But did you know that hypertension can also affect our pets too? They don’t have the same stressors and diet as we do, but high blood pressure in pets is much more common than you think.

Pets usually develop secondary hypertension, which means that it is associated with an underlying medical condition. In humans, the blood pressure measurement of 120 over 80 is considered normal. This number refers to a systolic blood pressure (highest pressure reached in the arteries during a heartbeat cycle) of 120 and a diastolic blood pressure (lowest pressure reached in the arteries during a heartbeat cycle)of 80. For pets, the normal blood pressure measurement is a bit higher, at 160 over 100.

How does Hypertension Affect Pets?

When pets have systolic blood pressures that are greater than 160 or diastolic blood pressures over 100, they are considered hypertensive and are at risk for organ damage. When pets have high blood pressure or hypertension, their blood vessels have become too narrow to handle the pressure of the blood flowing within them. If the pressure is too high, this will cause the blood vessels to contract and potentially burst. Hypertension greatly increases the risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, organ damage, and other life-threatening conditions.

 

The most common organs affected by hypertension are the following:

  • - Eye – damage to the retina may result in sudden or gradual blindness in pets
  • - Kidney
  • - Heart
  • - Brain

There are a number of diseases and health conditions associated with hypertension in pets. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • - Chronickidney disease
  • - Cushing’s disease
  • - Diabetes mellitus
  • - Obesity
  • - Heart disease
  • - Hyperthyroidism (cats)

 

Symptoms of Hypertension in Pets

High blood pressure can be difficult for pet owners to recognize, but PetMD.com identified some symptoms to help you recognize if your pet may have hypertension.

  • - Seizures
  • - Circling
  • - Disorientation
  • - Blindness or poor vision
  • - Dilated pupils
  • - Retinal detachment
  • - Hemorrhage of the eye
  • - Blood in the urine
  • - Nose bleeds
  • - Heart murmurs
  • - Weakness, either on one side of the body or in the legs
  • - Involuntary oscillation (rolling) of the eyeballs
  • - Loss of appetite 
  • - Vomiting 
  • - Increased thirst and urination 
  • - Weight loss 
  • - Dull coat
  • - Lack of energy

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from hypertension, a visit to your local veterinarian would be best to be able to address any health concerns in its early stages.

 

How is Hypertension Diagnosed

Pets showing any of the symptoms noted above should be promptly checked by a veterinarian and get blood pressure screenings. It is also advisable for senior pets to be screened for hypertension during their regular physical exams to be able to spot any problems early on.

The vet should be able to conduct multiple blood pressure measurements to help the pet get used to the procedure and not get too stressed. This is because a visit to the vet may also stress pets out and this might affect their blood pressure readings. Your vet may even recommend a repeat visit in order to properly diagnose your pet with hypertension before prescribing any treatments or medications.

What Will My Vet Do to Address the Problem?

If hypertension is identified as a secondary condition, the vet will treat the underlying condition first to resolve the secondary hypertension. Your pet’s blood pressure may need to be managed while treatment is ongoing for the underlying condition.

In mild cases, your veterinarian may recommend a low-calorie or low-sodium diet to help regulate your pet’s blood pressure. In severe cases of hypertension, your vet may prescribe a vasodilator or diuretic similar to those a physician might prescribe to a human patient.

Medications that cause the blood vessels to dilate are effective for treating hypertension in pets. These medications dilate the blood vessels to help them adjust to the high-pressure blood flowing through them.

Your veterinarian will recommend the best medication that depends on the severity of the high blood pressure of your pet, and any underlying medical conditions they may already have. Your veterinarian will be your best guide on the appropriate medication, lifestyle changes, as well as the appropriate management of your pet’s existing medical conditions.

 

 

High blood pressure can be serious threat to your pet’s health and quality of life. Fortunately, it’s a preventable and treatable condition when spotted early on. If you think your pet may have high blood pressure, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.