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The Pressure is On: Hypertension in Animals

09/30/2006

Lots of people have high blood pressure, and we all know that this can be very dangerous. When we go to the doctor's office, the very first thing they do is check our blood pressure. But has your pet ever had her blood pressure checked? Should she? Just like people, animals can develop high blood pressure. This can cause strokes, blindness, and other problems in pets. High blood pressure in animals can be caused by hormonal imbalances, aging kidneys, cancer, and other conditions. Sometimes we don't ever figure out why a particular animal has high blood pressure. But it is very important to diagnose and treat high blood pressure in our pets before it causes serious problems.

Which cats or dogs should have their blood pressure checked? Well, definitely every animal with any type of kidney problem should have their blood pressure checked every few months. It is common for veterinarians to see pets with kidney disease who have suddenly gone blind because of undiagnosed hypertension. This happens because the high blood pressure causes the retinas at the back of the eye to detach. This is preventable with medication.

Hypertension in pets can also be caused by hormonal imbalances such as Cushing's Disease (a condition where the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol or other hormones), and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid glands). Pets with these conditions should certainly have their blood pressure monitored. We also see high blood pressure in pets with certain types of cancer, such as a tumor on the adrenal gland. As I mentioned, sometimes we never find out why a particular animal has high blood pressure.

If your pet has any of these issues, she should definitely have her blood pressure measured. Probably every dog over 5 and every cat over 7 should have their blood pressure checked each year at the time of their annual physical.

If your pet is in one of these categories and has never had his blood pressure checked, ask your veterinarian to do so. And make sure you use a veterinarian who has blood pressure measuring equipment in their office- not all do, and this equipment may save your pet's vision - or his life.

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