Just like us dogs and cats can get hypertension, or high blood pressure. There are some differences though. Unlike people, dogs and cats rarely get coronary artery disease and heart attacks. When a pet suddenly dies of heart disease it is usually due to an arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm. Another factor in our pets favor is that they do not consume as much sodium as the average American.
Hypertension can be either primary or secondary to other disease processes. Primary hypertension is rare. Secondary hypertension can be caused by kidney disease, thyroid disease (high thyroid- usually in cats), diabetes, various hormonal diseases and certain types of cancer.
It is useful to detect hypertension because it can be detrimental to the pet’s health. The following diseases can be caused by hypertension: worsening of kidney disease, retinal detachment, stroke and disease of the heart muscle.
Once hypertension is detected it can usually be managed with medications.
There are many ways to measure blood pressure. The most common way to measure blood pressure is to use a blood pressure cuff and a device called a Doppler (see below).
One of the complications in measuring blood pressure in pets is “White Coat Syndrome”. This occurs when a pet with normal blood pressure has a brief elevation due to stress. Sometimes to counteract this we will take the blood pressure with the pet sitting on the owner’s lab or lying on a blanket with the owner. We may also take repeated measurements throughout the day or have the pet come back on a different day for another measurement.
If your pet has any of the above mentioned diseases make sure to discuss blood pressure screening with your vet.
Why do you need to test my pet’s blood?
There are many reasons that we do blood testing (see below).
1) Wellness testing- This is blood testing that is done during the annual exam on patients that are not showing any signs of illness. The goal of wellness testing is to catch diseases or abnormalities in their early stages where intervention can make the biggest difference.
2) Pre-anesthetic testing- Pre-anesthetic blood testing is to screen for any problems that may be going on under the surface that may interfere with anesthesia or surgery. For example, if a pet has low platelets this could indicate a clotting problem.
3) Therapeutic monitoring- Many pets that are on chronic medications need to have their blood tested to make sure the dosage is correct. An example of this is the seizure medication Phenobarbital. Also, patients that are on certain medications need to have their blood checked periodically to check for adverse effects. Some arthritis medications have rare side effects involving the liver and kidneys. If caught early they can be addressed before becoming a problem.
4) Sick pets- This one is pretty self explanatory. Most laboratory samples are sent to an outside lab. Results are returned the next day. For same day surgery and pets that are very sick, bloodwork can be done in house. In this case we usually have the results within an hour.
What do you do if you find something?
Blood testing is immensely helpful in sick and well pets. Often we can slow down or even correct abnormalities by intervening with diet, supplements and medications. One example is kidney disease. Pets with kidney disease that go on therapeutic diets will have a slowing of the progression of the disease and an increased survival.
What types of testing is done?
There are many tests that we do. I’ll list a few of the more common ones that we do.
-Complete Blood Count: This test looks at red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
-Chemistry panel: This test evaluates kidneys, liver, blood sugar, blood protein and electrolytes.
-Thyroid Level: Dogs and cats can get disease of the thyroid gland. Dogs get hypothyroid or low thyroid. Cats get hyperthyroid or high thyroid.
-Fructosamine: this test helps diagnose and manage diabetes.
-Blood Parasite testing: In addition to heartworm infection, tick borne infections like Lyme disease can be tested for.
If you pet seems sick or if you would like to get a more thorough picture of your pet’s health contact your vet about having your pet’s blood tested.
“He never goes outside.” “She looks fine to me.” “Cat’s have 9 lives.” “The whole ordeal is just so stressful for him.” “If she gets sick then we’ll bring her in. Until then it is not worth it.” And the list goes on. The list that I am referring to is the list of reasons that some cat owners use for not bringing their cats in for annual wellness exams. I know these cat owners love their pets as much as anyone else. And, to be honest, there is some validity to each of these points. Cat’s that don’t go outside are not going to eat out of a dumpster or get run over by a car. And it is stressful taking a cat to the vet. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. Right? We’ll actually no.
While inside cats are at low risk for infections they are not at no risk. Rodents can serve as intermediate hosts for intestinal parasites. This means that if you get mice in your house and your cat kills them and chews on them they could get roundworms. Also if you have houseplants worm eggs can be in the potting soil. Yeah, I know…Pretty Gross. What about fleas? It’s not that common of an occurrence but fleas can hitch a ride on our shoes and infest our house. Then there’s rabies virus. The chances of an indoor cat contracting rabies are pretty low but it is mandated by law in most counties to have pet cats vaccinated. While we are not going to call the cat police on you we do believe that it is a good idea.
And if a pet cat looks ok then he probably is ok. Not necessarily. Cats are great at hiding their illness. It’s a survival mechanism. In the wild if you look weak or sick you may get eaten. And with some of the longer haired breeds of cats it is hard to visualize weight loss under their coat.
Often if illness is detected in its early stages intervention with diet or medication can be quite beneficial. Some examples of diseases and conditions where early intervention is helpful are kidney disease, weight loss, diabetes, thyroid disease and anemia.
Now the stress of coming in can’t be eliminated but it can be reduced. Clinics like Countryside that are Certified as Cat Friendly have undergone specialized training in making the visit as smooth as possible. For more information on cat friendly practices check out: http://catfriendlypractice.catvets.com/uploads/Pages%20from%20CFPCatOwnerTrifoldFINAL.pdf
For more information on preparing for your visit check out: http://www.healthycatsforlife.com/clinic.html
At Countryside we know how important your pet is to you and our goal is to provide you with the information to help your pets live long healthy lives.