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.