Blood Pressure in Dogs

Blood Pressure in Dogs

Can dogs have high or low blood pressure? What are the symptoms of canine hypertension and hypotension? Are some dogs more affected by blood pressure imbalances than others?

We’re answering all of these questions and more in today’s post, so keep on reading!

Blood pressure measurements and their importance

When you bring your dog in for a check-up, whether once or twice a year, the vet usually performs a physical exam and recommends a number of tests (blood, fecal, or urine tests) or additional investigations such as an ultrasound or an X-ray.

But the truth is that while many dogs can suffer from conditions that can be associated with blood pressure modifications, their blood pressure is rarely measured.

Most vets who examine geriatric patients do try to measure their blood pressure, but some of the devices that are currently available for the task are not exactly sensitive. Moreover, even the stethoscopes used in veterinary medicine might sometimes not be sensitive enough for the vet to hear the pulse sound — they are effective for analyzing heart rhythms and lung sounds, though.

Given all these factors and since blood pressure changes happen especially in senior dogs, if your canine companion is older than 7 or 8, we suggest asking the vet to measure their blood pressure on every check-up.

An increase or decrease in blood pressure shouldn’t be treated as something alarming — some dogs can have fluctuating blood pressure, which calls for specific treatments. If your dog has hypertension at a specific time when they are brought to the veterinary hospital, it doesn’t mean they have hypertension all the time.

What types of blood pressure problems can dogs have?

Similarly to their human friends, dogs can suffer from hypertension or hypotension (typically known as low blood pressure).

Low blood pressure is much more uncommon compared to its counterpart, and its main symptoms are low energy, weakness, fainting, and it can also show up as a result of shock — whether from trauma or something else.

Highly active dogs that are usually involved in a myriad of physically strenuous exercise opportunities throughout the day can also have low blood pressure every now and then. Some studies have found that this issue can be more common in Border Collies, so, therefore, in herding breeds that work a lot, and Siberian Huskies, so dogs used for traction.

High blood pressure in dogs

Hypertension is a quite common health issue of our canine friends, and it might actually be even more common — but it might not be diagnosed. High blood pressure apparently affects anything between .5% to 10% of all dogs on the planet right now.

It goes without saying that older dogs are the most affected ones, but the truth is that even puppies can have high blood pressure, especially if they are also suffering from kidney infections or some other type of kidney pathology.

The exact cause of primary high blood pressure remains unknown to this day. However, in most dogs, hypertension is secondary to other medical complications (such as the renal health issues we’ve already mentioned).

Other diseases that are commonly associated with high blood pressure are the following:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes 

Some dogs can have mild hypertension and might not show any clinical signs unless it progresses and the dog develops severe hypertension or severe fluctuations in their blood pressure.

However, some of the typical clinical signs that can be seen in a pet that has hypertension are the following:

  • Eye health issues (detached retina, dilated pupils, bleeding inside the eye, or blindness)
  • Increased urination and water consumption (also due to kidney disease)
  • Hematuria (the presence of blood in the urine)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nervous system signs like disorientation, incoordination, seizures, partial paralysis, weakness, or depression.

How is hypertension treated?

The vet has to first find out whether or not your dog is already suffering from other conditions, which could be the cause of their high blood pressure. If that is the case, your pooch will have to be treated for that disease.

Your veterinarian is also likely to administer specific medications to keep your dog’s blood pressure within normal limits (110/60 to 160/90). These can range from beta-blockers and diuretics to ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

A universal treatment for all dogs with high blood pressure doesn’t exist as their bodies are different in terms of age and secondary health issues — so each case needs to be given customized therapy.

What is the outlook for a dog with high blood pressure?

It depends on a number of factors. If your dog is otherwise healthy and young and they have a condition that’s pretty easy to treat, their hypertension might be kept under control easier.

The main issue is that geriatric patients are probably already taking other meds for managing chronic health issues (from arthritis to cardiac pathologies), so giving them even more drugs might affect their liver or other organs.

For this reason, constant and close monitoring is absolutely necessary to make sure that the dog doesn’t develop an additional health complication. Also, some dogs might have fluctuating blood pressure, so they might have to be hospitalized and monitored for a number of days.

In general, if hypertension is diagnosed at the right time and if it is managed properly, you can expect your dog to live for many more years — especially if they have no other disease.

When left untreated, hypertension can cause potentially life-threatening health issues such as congestive heart failure or stroke.

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