High blood pressure in dogs, while it might not be widely reported, can lead to a number of different complications. While similar to the human affliction we know all too well, high blood pressure in dogs has a few key differences, and is also substantially more difficult to diagnose (measuring a dog's blood pressure is no easy feat).
Here are a few reasons why you should make sure that a blood pressure test is on the checklist next time your aging dog has their annual vet visit.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the technical term for what happens when your heart has to work overtime to pump blood through your arteries. This can do serious damage, considering that these arteries were made to withstand only so much pressure. Depending on the severity of the condition, hypertension can range from being a minor health concern to a severe condition demanding immediate attention.
Unlike in humans, who typically are at a heightened risk for a stroke when suffering from high blood pressure, our canine companions suffering from hypertension are typically plagued with damage to the kidneys or eyes. Also unlike in humans, hypertension in dogs rarely occurs just on its own. High blood pressure is usually the result of some other condition.
How to tell if your dog has it
Often called “the silent killer,” high blood pressure frequently creeps up slowly, making it difficult to tell that there is even a problem. As a precaution, most dogs older than age 7 are tested for high blood pressure at their annual screening. However, if you notice that your dog has any of the following, you should take them to the vet immediately, as these can be signs of hypertension.
- Rapid heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Blood in the urine
- Difficulty seeing
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Misshapen kidneys
A pet with hypertension is likely suffering from another condition as well. High blood pressure in dogs is primarily a symptom of something else rather than being a disease in its own right, as is frequently the case in people. A few diseases that commonly cause dogs’ blood pressure to spike are:
If that is the case, the underlying condition is going to require treatment before you can hope to effectively control the symptoms of your dog's high blood pressure.
What you can do to help
Before you do anything else, first you should have your dog take the test again, as the stress of being in a vet's office is often enough to trigger a false positive on a blood pressure test. The stethoscope can’t tell if their heart is beating faster because of fear or hypertension, so better to be safe than sorry.
If your suspicions are confirmed by the second test, the next step is to get your dog on a medication to help regulate their blood pressure. Typically this will be an ACE-inhibitor type drug, such as Enacard (enalapril) or Benazepril Hydrochloride, generic to Lotesin, which works by causing the blood vessels to dilate, making it easier for blood to pass through and thereby lowering the blood pressure.
If the ACE-inhibitors do not seem to be working, the next step is to try a calcium channel blocker, such as amlodipine beyslate which does just what its name suggests -- prevents the passage of calcium within cells, thereby removing possible obstructions from inside the arteries and making it simpler for the heart to comfortably pump blood.
Other medications that have proven useful in the fight against hypertension are diuretics, like Salix, which act as a vasodilator in some cases, having the secondary effect of lowering blood pressure by expanding the blood vessels. Also, putting your dog on a low sodium diet has been shown to reduce some of the symptoms by reducing water retention and blood volume.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.