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High Blood Pressure in Dogs: Vet-Approved Signs, Causes & Care

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. This condition affects humans and most other animals, including dogs. Unlike in people, high blood pressure in dogs is usually the result of an underlying condition and so further investigation is required to figure out exactly what that is.

Below, we’ll look at exactly what causes high blood pressure and all the possible treatments available.

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What is High Blood Pressure in Dogs?

High blood pressure in dogs, commonly known as hypertension, is characterized by increased blood vessel pressure.

Blood pressure refers to the pressure against the walls of the arteries during the time the heart contracts and empties itself of blood ( systolic pressure- the maximum pressure) and when it relaxes to refill with blood ( diastolic pressure- the minimum pressure).  Blood pressure, as in humans, is an important physiological function in dogs because it promotes appropriate blood flow to all organs and tissues. So when blood pressure is chronically high, it can eventually affect every organ in the body, leading to various health complications.

High blood pressure often creeps up slowly and the signs can be hard to notice, especially in the initial stages. It can often be difficult to tell there is a problem without measuring blood pressure and it is frequently identified during routine checkups or as part of an inquiry into other health issues.

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Image By: Nejron Photo, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of High Blood Pressure?

There are a wide range of possible signs your dog may show with hypertension. Damage to the eyes can lead to dilated (large) pupils, bleeding in the eyes and sudden blindness. The kidneys are organs that are typically affected which can cause increased thirst and urination as well as vomiting and lethargy.

High blood pressure can cause a heart murmur or even heart failure. If the nervous system is affected there are many different signs that can be seen including seizures, circling and disorientation. Epistaxis, or nosebleeds, might also be an indication of hypertension in dogs.

What Are the Causes of High Blood Pressure in Dogs?

Dogs can get primary hypertension, when the cause is unknown but high blood pressure in canines is usually the result of another condition.

This secondary hypertension can be due to many underlying conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, Cushing’s disease and adrenal gland tumors.

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Image By: Ihtar, Pixabay

How Do I Care for a Dog with High Blood Pressure?

The treatment for hypertension in dogs can vary depending on the fundamental cause of the condition if one is present. Treating any underlying disease will help bring their blood pressure back down to normal levels.

If the dog experiences a serious hypertension-related complication, such as bleeding in the eye or kidney failure, hospitalization may be necessary.

Your dog may need specific blood pressure medication as prescribed by your veterinarian indefinitely. In addition to medication, adjustments to their nutrition with a therapeutic diet can be an important aspect of longstanding treatment for hypertension in dogs. A specialized diet can help manage hypertension and reduce the risk of complications associated with the condition.

When treating hypertension in dogs, the goal is usually to achieve a systolic blood pressure of around 140mmHg or less and a diastolic blood pressure of 90mmHg or less. Regular laboratory tests will be necessary to screen for any potential medication side effects and the progression of the underlying disease.

The course of hypertension in dogs can vary depending on the condition’s underlying cause. With appropriate management, including medication and regular monitoring of blood pressure levels, the risk of potential complications can be minimized.

It’s important to note that medicine for hypertension in dogs is typically a lifelong commitment and may need to be adjusted over time based on the dog’s response to treatment and any changes in their health status. By working closely with a veterinarian, dog owners can help ensure that their pet receives the appropriate care and treatment needed to manage their hypertension effectively over the long term.

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Image Credit: RINA ORLOVA, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens when a dog’s blood pressure is high?

When a dog’s blood pressure is elevated, it can result in several issues. It commonly affects their heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system. Signs that can be seen include blindness, dilated pupils and bleeding inside the eyes. Also, seizures, disorientation, weakness, heart murmurs, and nose bleeds can occur.

If ignored, hypertension in dogs can result in major problems. But, with proper therapy, including medicine and regular monitoring, the risk of problems is reduced, and the dog’s quality of life is enhanced.

What can I give my dog for high blood pressure?

How your vet will treat your dog with high blood pressure depends on if there is an underlying disease and the signs they are showing. Treating any underlying conditions will help bring their blood pressure down to normal levels. They may also need specific blood pressure medication. Medication for hypertension is generally ongoing treatment and may need to be adjusted over time.  A therapeutic diet may also have a role in managing hypertension in dogs. A diet may be prescribed to regulate blood pressure and lower the risk of complications from the illness.

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Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Hypertension is a serious health problem that may affect dogs of all ages and breeds. Although the etiology of primary hypertension in dogs is unknown, secondary hypertension is frequently connected with underlying health issues such as kidney disease, adrenal gland disease, and diabetes mellitus.

Signs of hypertension in dogs include sudden blindness, eye hemorrhage, and nervous system signs such as seizures, confusion, and ataxia.

Thankfully, hypertension in dogs can usually be well managed, minimizing the risks of complications for your canine companion.

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Featured Image Credit: WilleeCole Photography, Shutterstock

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