Blood Pressure Checks
High blood pressure (hypertension) is common in older cats and dogs. It can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, such as an overactive thyroid, kidney disease or Cushing’s, but can also occur as a primary problem (no underlying cause).
Why is blood pressure monitored?
In many pets, hypertension doesn’t have any symptoms until organ damage occurs, so routine blood pressure checks are recommended yearly for cats and dogs over 7 years old or pets with a known risk factor. Untreated hypertension can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and central nervous system, which is often irreversible.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure can be measured quickly and easily in a conscious patient, if they are cooperative. A cuff is placed around the limb or tail, and a small probe is used to listen to the pulse below this. The cuff is gently inflated to block the blood vessel, then gradually deflated to allow blood flow to return. An average of five readings is recommended.
A blood pressure of over 140mmHg is considered high, with values over 180mmHg considered severe.
Like in people, our pets’ blood pressure will increase due to stress. Sometimes your pet may be admitted to the practice so they can settle in for an hour or so and get used to the environment, or you may be present with your pet. If “white coat syndrome” is suspected, blood pressure should be repeated 1-2 weeks later. Most pets do not have persistently high blood pressure due to fear, and if readings remain consistently high, they are likely true.
If hypertension is found on a routine check, investigations such as blood tests and urine analysis may be recommended to check for underlying conditions. Treating any found underlying conditions may lead to lowering of the blood pressure, or pets may need management of their blood pressure as well.
Hypertension can be managed using tablets. Blood pressure will need regular monitoring and checks are advisable 7-14 days after dose changes, to ensure blood pressure doesn’t drop too low. Treatment is lifelong but most pets respond well.
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