By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record February 21, 2009
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common ailment, most frequently identified in older dogs and cats. Unfortunately, this condition often goes undetected. Blood pressure is a parameter that is not routinely measured by most veterinary practitioners. Patients are frequently anxious in exam rooms, which can lead to falsely elevated readings.
Also, it can be difficult to keep the needed equipment in place on a non-sedated patient, especially one that is very energetic.
Symptoms of hypertension include apathy or depression, seizure-like episodes, vocalizing, blindness, and others. On physical exam, your veterinarian may identify a heart murmur, dilated retinal vessels with or without hemorrhage in the eye, and brain abnormalities. Many diseases can trigger hypertension. The most common ones include but are not limited to kidney disease, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and Cushings. High blood pressure can lead to several life-threatening health problems such as blindness, end stage kidney disease, brain damage and cardiovascular damage.
There are several ways that blood pressure can be measured in veterinary medicine. Direct or intra-arterial measurement is seldom utilized because it is cumbersome and potentially dangerous. Indirect measurement is more practical, and two methods exist. Doppler equipment indirectly detects the flow of blood in arteries. Oscillometric systems indirectly detect pressure changes across a blood vessel.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury. Mild risk is a value of 150-159 mm-HG. Moderate risk is a value of 160-179 mm-HG. And severe risk is greater than 180 mm-HG. Amlodipine or Norvasc is the most common therapy. Additional treatment may be needed depending upon the severity of disease, and level of other organ involvement. Frequent rechecks will be needed. Ask your veterinarian about evaluating your cherished companion's blood pressure, and screening for some of the diseases associated with hypertension.