|Dear Friend of Pets Unlimited, |
The holidays are a high stress time for everyone. In fact, just thinking about crowds of shoppers and fine family fun can cause my blood pressure to spike. In humans, a high stress lifestyle (or season!), smoking, and high salt diet all contribute to this potentially dangerous condition. But do pets get hypertension? Although your pets don't smoke or worry about the mortgage, they are not immune to high blood pressure, especially as they age. Identifying hypertension and treating it is critical to the long-term health of senior animals, like our shelter residents Rocky and Max.
What does High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Do?
Problems from high blood pressure arise when a blood vessel gets too small for the high pressure flow going through it. Imagine attaching a garden hose to a fire hydrant. The pressure would cause the garden hose to explode. This can lead to blood vessel damage and eventually to vessel rupture and bleeding.
What Causes High Blood Pressure in Pets?
There are numerous diseases in pets that are associated with high blood pressure, such as chronic renal (kidney) failure, feline hyperthyroidism, Cushing's disease, Diabetes mellitus and other diseases. In humans, high blood pressure is considered primary, meaning there is no underlying disease causing it. In animals, primary hypertension is unusual; there is almost always another disease causing it.
How do we Measure Blood Pressure in Pets?
Blood pressure measurement is performed similarly for pets and people. An inflatable cuff is fit snugly around the pet's foot, foreleg or sometimes the base of the tail. In a person, as the cuff is slowly deflated, a stethoscope is used to listen and measure blood pressure. In animals, the stethoscope is not sensitive enough and an ultrasonic probe must be taped or held over the artery.
Some pets are nervous at the vet's office and this factor must be taken into account when reading blood pressure. It is possible for a pet to have high blood pressure at the vet's office and normal pressure at all other times; however, most pets are able to maintain normal blood pressure despite being surrounded by hospital staff. And the cookies we hand out help to distract them too!
What Treatment is Available for Hypertension?
When hypertension is identified, a search for the underlying cause is necessary. It may be that controlling the underlying disease completely reverses the hypertension. Otherwise, as with people, medication to lower blood pressure is often in order. This typically involves a daily pill that dilates peripheral blood vessels, effectively making them larger to accommodate blood flow.
If you have questions about hypertension or would like to schedule a blood pressure screening for your pet, please email us or call 415-563-6700.
Dr. Tom Mason