This article will guide you through the basics of blood pressure in dogs and also give you a simple understanding of why your dog might experience hypertension.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure on the walls of the arteries during the contraction and expansion of the heart while it pumps blood in and out. There are two types of pressure in the heart: systolic and diastolic. Systolic refers to the maximum pressure the artery walls can handle when the heart contracts and diastolic refers to the minimum amount of pressure the artery walls can handle when the heart relaxes.
What is High Blood Pressure in Dogs, and Why Does It Occur?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, denotes the rising of both the systolic and diastolic pressures. Essentially, the heart is working harder than normal to pump blood to the rest of the body, and this causes an enormous stress on the artery walls, the blood vessels, and the heart.
There are two types of hypertension, which is often referred to as high blood pressure: primary and secondary. Primary is when hypertension is the issue in and of itself, and it is more common in humans. Secondary hypertension is the result of an underlying disease or medical ailment, and it is more commonly seen in dogs.
It is common for blood pressure levels to rise temporarily in stress-inducing situations. Examples can include going to the vet, staying at a foreign home, or seeing a wild animal in the yard.
Blood Pressure Measurements
Directly vs. Indirectly
Blood pressure measured directly is done so by placing a catheter in one of the dog’s major arteries, such as the femoral artery in the thigh. Measurements done indirectly are done using either the Doppler method or the oscillometric method. They both use a pressure cuff placed on one of the dog’s limbs. The difference between them is that the Doppler method uses ultrasonic waves to read the blood pressure, whereas the oscillometric method uses a sensor built into that cuff that that detects pulse pressure to measure the blood pressure.
Causes of High Blood Pressure in Dogs
This section will focus on secondary hypertension. Dogs with secondary hypertension have an underlying medical condition that results in high blood pressure. Listed below are a few ongoing conditions that show themselves through the symptom of high blood pressure.
- Chronic Kidney disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Renal arterial stenosis
- General Obesity
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension in Dogs
Listed below are signs and symptoms of hypertension. They are indicative of many of the aforementioned underlying diseases. Most notably, hypertension affects dogs eyes, so pay close attention.
- Bleeding in the eyes (ocular hemorrhage)
- Ataxia (uncoordinated or wobbly movements)
- Increased drinking/urinating (kidney disease)
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Epistaxis (nosebleed)
- Irregular heartbeats/rhythms
- Detached retina
Since nearly all of high blood pressure issues are secondary or resulting from an underlying condition, the treatments will vary depending on what is causing it. Your dog will have to undergo a variety of different tests and/or examinations depending upon what your vet believes the underlying cause to be. Some symptoms are so critical that they need immediate, emergency medical attention, such as bleeding in the eye or kidney failure. Hypertension can cause significant and irreversible damage the affected organs over time, including the kidneys, the retina, and the heart.
Most of the time, hypertension issues require ongoing medication to monitor the conditions. Medication will most likely include ACE-inhibiting drugs, which dilate the blood vessels and allow blood to pass through more easily. This helps take some of the pressure off of the artery walls. Examples of ACE inhibitors include benazypril, enalapril, imidapril, and ramipril.
The most important thing when identifying hypertension in your pet is finding the underlying disease that is causing it. Then, make sure you consult your vet for the right medication to help monitor the high blood pressure and reduce the stress on your dog’s body. Overall, your dog can still live a long, happy life, but certain modifications to his diet, exercise, and overall health regimen will be key in keeping him alive and thriving.