High blood pressure in pets

High blood pressure (hypertension) is an extremely important concern in human medicine. A high stress lifestyle, smoking, and high salt diet all contribute to this potentially dangerous condition. But what about our pets? They don’t smoke or worry about the mortgage and they don’t deposit cholesterol in their blood vessels. They do, however, get high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure in pets?
In human’s primary hypertension (high blood pressure with no underlying cause) is common but in pet’s high blood pressure is nearly always caused by an underlying disease.

The most common diseases that cause high blood pressure are
-kidney disease. Not only can kidney disease cause high blood pressure, but high blood pressure causes kidney damage
-hyperthyroidism in cats
-hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease)
-sugar diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
-adrenal tumours

What does High Blood Pressure Do?
Problems from high blood pressure arise when a blood vessel is too small for the high pressure flow going through it which results in bleeding. Think of attaching a garden hose to a fire hydrant -the pressure would cause the garden hose to explode and that is what happens to a blood vessel too small for the pressure going through it.
The vessels most at risk for bleeding are
-in the eye where bleeding causes retinal detachment and blindness
-in the kidney which results in kidney failure
High blood pressure also increases the risk of embolism: the formation of tiny blood clots that form when blood flow is abnormal. These clots can lodge anywhere including the brain, lungs, and heart and cause serious life threatening damage.

How do we Measure Blood Pressure in Pets?
Blood pressure measurement is performed similarly to the way it is in humans. An inflatable cuff is fit snuggly around the leg or tail of the pet. The cuff is inflated to occlude blood flow through the superficial artery and then slowly deflated and a measurement is made when the blood starts to reflow through the vessel. As some pets are obviously nervous, several readings are usually performed.

What Treatment is Available for Hypertension?
Treatment of the underlying disease (e.g. hyperthyroidism, kidney disease etc) maybe all that’s required. In other cases, eye drops maybe used to try and save vision and medication to lower blood pressure (e.g. amlodipine, benazepril) may need to be prescribed.