High Blood Pressure in Pets

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is when your pet’s blood pressure is persistently higher than normal. The increased pressure in the blood vessels damages the vessel walls, causing bleeding and clot formation, and also causes the heart to have to pump against a greater resistance. This can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, brain and heart. 

The cause of standalone or primary hypertension in pets is often unknown. However, hypertension in pets is most usually secondary to another disease. In the early stages there are few if any signs of hypertension itself, so it’s probable you will see signs of the underlying disease first.  

These include:
•    Kidney disease
•    Diabetes
•    Hyperthyroidism
•    Obesity
•    Cushing’s syndrome

If your pet is diagnosed with one of these conditions, your vet is likely to recommend regular screening for high blood pressure as part of their treatment plan. 

As pets age, they’re more likely to experience either primary hypertension or develop one of the diseases associated with secondary hypertension. Regular screening of all pets over the age of 7 is recommended. Ideally we want to detect hypertension early, before organ damage can occur. 

The method of measuring blood pressure is similar to that used in humans. A cuff is placed on your pet’s leg or on their tail and then inflated and deflated, just like at the GP surgery. 
Stress can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, the same as in people, so the environment is kept as calm as possible and several readings will be taken. The process is well tolerated by most pets. 

Once any underlying disease is identified and treated, this can be enough for the blood pressure to normalise. In other cases, medication can be used to stabilise the blood pressure. For some animals treatment will be lifelong, in order to prevent damage to the organs caused by long term hypertension. 

With good care and follow-up monitoring, the prognosis is good when your pet’s blood pressure is adequately controlled and the risk of long term complications is greatly reduced.