High Blood Pressure

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which blood pressure is constantly very high. High blood pressure occurs as blood vessels become narrower. Decreasing the size of the vessels (which still face the same amount of blood pressure as before) results in the blood vessels bursting. These breaks cause internal bleeding. Increased blood pressure can also result in the formation of small blood clots.

In pets, hypertension is usually a result of a different health problem (i.e. disease). This is called secondary hypertension. When high blood pressure alone is the problem, it is called primary hypertension. Primary hypertension rarely results in animals in comparison to secondary hypertension which is quite common.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Hypertension is diagnosed by a veterinarian performing a blood pressure reading. This reading must be taken several times before it can be deemed accurate. This is because pets, especially dogs tend to have a higher blood pressure when they are excited and/ or anxious. It is best to have your veterinarian perform a blood pressure reading during all your pet's physical exams, especially if your pet is of older age. Examination of the eyes, heart, kidneys, and nervous system during a physical exam will also aid in detecting the presence of hypertension. Catching high blood pressure in its early stages makes it a lot easier to treat. In an animal's case, hypertension almost always indicates that a more serious medical condition is present. More serious conditions are usually tested using blood tests, and/or x-rays.

What are the causes of high blood pressure?

In most cases, high blood pressure develops because of the presence of a different health problem. Some diseases that are frequently responsible for high blood pressure include: chronic kidney disease, Glomerular Disease, Cushing's disease, hyperthyroidism (in cats only), and Pheochromocytoma.Heartworm is caused by mosquitoes which are responsible for the transmission of the disease. The cycle begins when an infected dog for example, is bit by a mosquito. The infected dog contains microfilariae (the initial stage of a heartworm). As the mosquito comes in contact with the dog, it too becomes infected by the microfilariae. The microfilariae mature into larvae inside of the mosquito. The mosquito then will continue going from animal to animal. As the mosquito feeds, it transports the larvae. From there, the larvae burrow their way inside until they reach the blood stream. In dogs, it takes about six months for the heartworm to fully mature. In cats, it takes approximately seven to eight months. Once the heartworm is mature, it produces offspring and the cycle continues.

  • Blindness or dilated pupils
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Changes in behavior and/or appetite

Symptoms of hypertension in most cases will not be easy to recognize. This is why proper screening by your veterinarian is important. They symptoms that pet owners usually see are those relating to the disease causing high blood pressure.

Furthermore, high blood pressure is more common in cats than in dogs. High blood pressure is also more common in older animals in comparison to younger ones.

How can high blood pressure be treated?

There are a number of ways in which high blood pressure can be reduced and brought back to normal levels. In cases of mild hypertension, just eating a healthier diet helps blood pressure levels become normal. However, there are cases of hypertension that can require hospitalization.

If an animal is obese, losing weight is essential in order to heal. Obesity can lead to build up in the blood vessels. Therefore, the vessels become narrower. Exercise along with a proper diet should be practiced regularly.

As mentioned, high blood pressure is usually the result of another disease in pets. The disease causing hypertension must be treated before high blood pressure itself can be dealt with. Treating the initial disease makes it much easier then to control blood pressure. In most cases, over-the-counter products are used to reduce blood pressure. Visiting a veterinarian regularly is recommended. In this way you can ensure that your pet is receiveing the necessary treatment for their condition.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.