"Can dogs suffer from high blood pressure?
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"Can dogs suffer from high blood pressure?

Dogs
Health & Safety

High blood pressure or to give it its scientific name, hypertension, is a common problem that affects a lot of people, particularly when they reach middle age. However, dogs can suffer from high blood pressure too, which can pose a range of different problems as well as sometimes being indicative of something else being amiss.

While not as common as high blood pressure in people, high blood pressure in dogs is actually underdiagnosed and so, may be more prevalent than veterinary reports indicate.

In this article, we will look at high blood pressure in dogs in more detail, including the most common indications of the problem, what can be done about it, and some of the risk factors. Read on to learn more.

Blood pressure norms for dogs

In order to understand high blood pressure or hypertension in dogs, it is important to understand first what the normal blood pressure of the dog should be, and how this is measured and identified.

Blood pressure readings for people are of course taken with an inflatable arm cuff that is tightened up to measure the pressure of the blood flowing through the veins, and the same approach is used for dogs, but the cuff is placed around the tail or paw. This can usually be performed quickly and easily in a standard check-up, although the sensation of the cuff tightening may be briefly uncomfortable for the dog.

The reading that your vet finds can then be used to explain normal blood pressure or the signs of a problem as follows:

  • A normal blood pressure reading for a healthy adult dog is around 150/95.
  • A slightly elevated blood pressure is around the 150/99 to 159/95 mark, although this reading is not high enough to warrant concern.
  • Blood pressure of around 160/119 to 179/100 indicates high blood pressure towards the bottom of the scale of what may be a potential problem, but requires intervention.
  • High blood pressure that must be addressed immediately is in the region of 180/120.

In order to return a true reading, your dog will probably repeat the process up to around five times, in order to allow the dog time to settle down and so, avoid returning a false result.

How common is high blood pressure in dogs?

High blood pressure in dogs is not as common as it is in people, potentially because dogs do not live as long as people do! However, it is likely that high blood pressure also goes underdiagnosed in many cases, or may only be checked when other problems are becoming evident as part of a differential diagnosis.

Like high blood pressure and associated problems in people, high blood pressure in dogs may have a hereditary element to it, and if a dog’s parents or other close relatives suffer from high blood pressure, there is a heightened chance that they themselves will develop it.

As your dog reaches maturity (around the age of seven or eight) it is a good idea to ask your vet to run a mini-MOT on your dog, taking their blood pressure and potentially a basic blood panel to find out the dog’s norms.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in dogs?

It can be hard to tell if your dog has problematically high blood pressure without having your vet assess it, but there are several different symptoms that may cause concern and so, give you an indication that your dog should be checked out. These will not of course appear in every dog, and how severe they are will vary too.

Some of the most common symptoms of high blood pressure in dogs include:

  • A rapid heart rate.
  • A tendency to suffer from headaches.
  • Disorientation for no obvious reason.
  • In prolonged cases of dangerously high blood pressure, seizures may occur.
  • Long-term untreated high blood pressure can lead to blindness.
  • Glaucoma is another ocular problem that can serve as a warning of high blood pressure, as can retinal detachment and burst capillaries in the eyes.
  • Frequent nosebleeds that are not related to an injury or other problem can also indicate high blood pressure.
  • High levels of protein in the urine, or visible blood in the urine.
  • Kidney problems, including but not limited to swollen kidneys.
  • Heart murmur or other heart problems such as aortic stenosis.
  • Tremors of the eyes, or oscillating eyes.
  • Weakness in the legs or entire body.

These are by no means a definitive list of all of the potential symptoms that your dog may display, but taken in combination with each other, all indicate an issue that should be investigated.

What can be done about high blood pressure in dogs?

If your vet considers that your dog’s blood pressure is dangerously high or likely to cause other problems, your vet will work with you to establish ways to lower their blood pressure and keep it under control.

In some cases, high blood pressure can in itself be caused by another health issue such as heart problems, and in cases like this, getting the underlying issue under control is the key to successful treatment.

Similar medications to those used for people can be prescribed in the appropriate dosages for dogs, such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers, used in combination with an appropriate diet and exercise. If your dog is overweight, you should also work to get them fit and down to a healthy size too.

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