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High Blood Pressure

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Overview

As with humans, high blood pressure in animals is associated with a number of health concerns. High levels of stress, poor diet, and a lack of exercise are all factors that have been known to contribute to high blood pressure in humans as well as animals. However, with animals, high blood pressure is most often associated with age. Blood vessels, over time, can become smaller meaning that the blood being pumped through them is forced to be pumped at higher pressures. This can be associated with a number of serious health problems as this pressure puts stress on the blood vessels. Certain organs are especially susceptible to blood pressure related problems. The retina, for example, is one such organ at risk and blindness is a possible end result. The kidneys are usually affected as they rely on blood vessels to remove toxins from your pet’s blood. In fact, kidney disease and high blood pressure are interrelated: high blood pressure can expedite the progression of kidney disease and kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.

There are a number of possible causes for high blood pressure in your pet. Chronic renal failure is highly associated with hypertension. In addition, a condition known as hyperthyroidism has been known to lead to high blood pressure. Cushing’s disease, diabetes, acromegaly, polycynthemia and other disorders all lead to high blood pressure. While in humans it is not abnormal for high blood pressure to be the primary disorder, in animals this is very rare and hypertension is almost always associated with some other form of illness.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Depending on the length of time without treatment and the severity of high blood pressure there are a variety of possible symptoms. Many of these symptoms unfortunately will occur internally so it can be difficult to behaviourally indentify hypertension in your pet. Blood vessels will sometimes burst and bleeding can occur internally. Blindness from damaged retinas is on symptom that has already been mentioned. In addition, high blood pressure increases the risk of embolisms which are essentially blood clots that move in blood vessels and are eventually lodged in an organ like the brain (which can lead to strokes and even death).

Diagnosing high blood pressure in your pet requires a simple blood pressure test. Similar to the test in humans, measuring blood pressure in animals requires an inflatable cuff be fitted around your pet’s foot or leg. The cuff is then inflated and slowly deflated to get a measure of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.


Treatment

Treating high blood pressure usually involves determining the underlying cause for the problem. Treating these underlying causes will ultimately treat the high blood pressure. Hence, depending on the cause of your pet’s hypertension treatment will vary. If your veterinarian identifies that kidney disease is the cause behind the hypertension then treatment will be required for the kidney disease. Still there are some blood pressure medications given to animals (typically enalapril for dogs and amlodipine for cats).

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