Hypertension & Your Dog- What Is It? How To Treat It?

Like we humans, our canine companions can suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure refers to the abnormal elevation of the pressure exerted by blood — specifically blood in the arteries — against the walls of the blood vessels and the organs those vessels supply. Untreated hypertension can negatively affect many of your dog’s organ systems, including the kidneys, heart, eyes, and nervous system.

There are two types of hypertension found in dogs. Primary hypertension occurs without a clear, underlying cause and is quite rare in veterinary medicine. Secondary hypertension is seen more frequently, often as a consequence of another primary disease. Chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, cardiomyopathy (hardening of the walls of the heart muscle), and Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenalcorticism (excessive production of the cortisone hormone) are the main causes of high blood pressure in dogs.

What are some symptoms of hypertension in dogs?

Just as in humans, most dogs won’t show any signs of high blood pressure until it reaches the point of being a medical emergency…or your veterinarian detects it during a routine examination. Once it reaches the critical stage, your pet may show some of the following signs:

  • Circling
  • Seizures
  • Blindness, retinal detachment, eye hemorrhage, dilated pupils
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Blood in the urine
  • Weakness in the legs on either, or both, sides of the body
  • Disorientation

Since all of these symptoms are also signs of numerous underlying diseases, you should ask your veterinarian to check your dog’s blood pressure as a matter of protocol during necessary exams.

How does my vet measure my dog’s blood pressure?

As in human medicine, an inflatable cuff will be placed on your dog’s paw or at the base of his tail closest to a discernable pulse. Standard blood pressure measuring instruments — in vet medicine, this is usually a Doppler flow meter that measures sound waves — record the differences in sound of blood moving in, and out, of the arteries.

Generally, 5 to 7 measurements are taken with the average reading shown as your pet’s blood pressure. Standard norms for canine blood pressure range from 150/95 to 159/95, with anything above those figures requiring veterinary treatment. Your dog will need to remain calm and quiet during this part of the exam in order not to skew the results of the testing.

What treatments are available?

The first step toward managing hypertension in most dogs is to treat the underlying illness. That may mean adjusting your dog’s diet to reduce sodium intake for both kidney disease and cardiac problems, medicating with diuretics to get rid of unwanted fluids, and going on anti-seizure medications if that has been an issue. Depending on the disease causing the high blood pressure, your vet will probably suggest helping your dog lose weight by exercising more frequently and going on a calorie-restricted diet.

Special medications for reducing the effects of hypertension may also be recommended. These may include beta-blockers such as propanolol or atenolol to reduce the heart rate, calcium channel blockers (diltiazem and captopril) to reduce the force of heart muscle contractions, ACE-inhibitors (enalapril, benazepril) to reduce blood volume, and vasodilators (amlodipine) to increase the diameter of blood vessels.

If your hypertensive dog is one that stresses easily or needs to remain calm, there are several ways you can take care of this problem at home. For example:

  • Crate your dog or place him in a dark, quiet room in your home when you know you’re having company or someone is coming over that will excite him.
  • Try obedience training using positive reinforcement to keep him from barking and jumping at the doorbell or the mailman.
  • Nervous, overactive, and anxious dogs can benefit from an herbal-based liquid remedy full of natural ingredients known to be safe and effective in helping calm your dog. Flower essences, such as aspen, cerato, and wild oat help to reduce general anxiety and fear, sharpen your pet’s ability to focus, alleviate depression, and stop nervous habits such as chewing and destructive behaviors. Herbal extracts, including vervain, passion flower, and valerian reduce restlessness and nervousness, and aid in physical relaxation.

Your dog with hypertension can live a long, happy, and productive life if you pay attention to his medication, food, and exercise, make sure he gets regular veterinary check-ups, and he stays calm and anxiety-free.

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