Problems with blood pressure are just as common in pets as they are in people. While the vast majority of humans can commonly develop hypertension due to an unhealthy lifestyle, dogs can sometimes get both low and high blood pressure.
But what are the symptoms of hypotension? Is it that dangerous? And how can it be diagnosed and treated? We’re answering these questions and more below, so keep on reading!
A note on the normal canine blood pressure
The term high or low can be irrelevant if one doesn’t know what thresholds there are for both of these concepts. Blood pressure can be a little challenging to explain, but it is actually made up of two components – systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The first is the maximum pressure reached as your dog’s heart beats, while the second is the minimum pressure that is determined between the pet’s heartbeats.
This is the reason why even in humans, blood pressure monitors always show two figures. The ideal number in people is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. As you can imagine, dogs’ bodies are different, so the ideal blood pressure in their case is 110/60 to 160/90mmHg. Anything below or above those limits is considered hypotension and hypertension, respectively.
Knowing these figures can be very helpful for veterinarians in particular (besides, many pet owners do not tend to monitor their dogs’ blood pressure at home unless they really have to).
What causes hypotension in dogs?
While the causes of hypertension remain relatively unknown, this condition can be the consequence of a myriad of factors ranging from chronic kidney disease to diabetes, adrenal gland disease, or adrenal gland cancers.
The causes of hypotension, by comparison, are somewhat better known although, even in this case, the disease can be idiopathic. Considering the numbers that we mentioned in the first part of this article, the average blood pressure in dogs is 130-133/75mmHg, so when those numbers drop and get to be under 110/60, a dog has developed hypotension.
Some of the most common causes of low blood pressure in our canine friends are the following:
- Blood loss
- A weak heart muscle
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney health issues
- Severe anemia
- Some medications
- Severe nutritional deficiencies
- Addison’s disease
Symptoms of low blood pressure in dogs
Unfortunately, some of the clinical signs caused by hypotension in pets aren’t very easy to spot. Mild hypotension tends to go unnoticed by most pet parents. It’s only when it has become moderate or severe that the symptoms become obvious and that the dog is taken to the veterinary clinic.
As you can imagine, low blood pressure has a significant impact on how well a dog’s organs are functioning. They will effectively be receiving a decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients, leading to signs such as the following:
- Loss of balance/collapse
- Increased thirst and urination
- Pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
How is hypotension diagnosed?
Some dogs can have fluctuating blood pressure, which is why their hypotension might not always be revealed during common visits to the veterinary clinic. However, in most cases, an initial standard examination almost always involves blood work like a complete blood count and biochemistry, along with the use of a blood pressure monitor.
This is especially true for animals that are older than the age of 7, as their levels should be supervised more carefully.
An important note that we have to make is the fact that blood pressure tends to vary a lot from one dog to the next. Depending on their age, their health status, even their diet, as well as their breed and size, one dog can physiologically have a completely different blood pressure level compared to another.
Therefore, when diagnosing a specific dog with hypotension, the veterinarian needs to take all of these aspects into account. For example, a very athletic working dog breed like a Border Collie may have moderate hypotension, but it is not considered a pathology – rather a sign of good physical shape.
Can your dog be treated for hypotension?
In most cases, yes, but it also depends on the case’s prognosis. When trauma has occurred, and low blood pressure is the result of severe blood loss, for example, immediate surgery can be a solution. However, some types of anesthesia can also cause low blood pressure, so the vet needs to choose the appropriate one so as to avoid making the health issue more severe.
If the cause of hypotension is not determined through diagnosis and anamnesis, the vet may choose to keep the dog monitored for a period of time, especially in mild hypotension cases.
Depending on every situation in part, the dog may be put on some drugs such as inotropes or vasopressors, with the mention that while vasoconstriction will solve the issue of hypotension itself, it may also lead to a lower blood flow to internal organs, in general.
Can you manage a dog’s blood pressure at home?
Hypotension is an emergency, so seek out veterinary assistance immediately after noticing some of the symptoms we’ve discussed in this article. If your dog does not receive treatment as soon as possible, they might lose their life.
Unfortunately, hypotension cannot be treated at home with alternative remedies or diet changes. Diet changes can work in dogs with hypertension, and so can the addition of physical exercise – but no lifestyle change can cure your dog from hypotension. Routine visits to the animal hospital can at least determine the issue and keep it under control.