Systemic hypertension, or high blood pressure, is very common in humans but can also be a problem for pets. Our pets do not smoke, do not worry and usually do not have high cholesterol, but as they age high blood pressure can be a problem.
When blood pressure rises in our pets, the smallest vessels in the body are the most effected. The increased pressure causes the vessel to explode and bleeding into the area results. This is particularly important in the retina ( the back part of the eye), the kidneys and the brain.
High blood pressure is not a primary disease in pets. It is usually associated or caused by another disease. The most common diseases that cause high blood pressure are:
Chronic kidney disease–93 % of dogs and 61 % of cats that have kidney disease have high blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism in cats–87 % of cats with hyperthyroidism have high blood pressure
Hypertension does not have any signs until it causes real problems like retinal detachment and bleeding causing blindness, bleeding in the brain, or kidney issues. Screening older pets, especially those with the above diseases is important to identify those with high blood pressure and treat them before they have problems.
Blood pressure is measured in pets with a machine similar to that used to measure human blood pressure. When hypertension is identified, then it can be treated by treating the underlying disease and possibly using blood pressure lowering medications. An ACE inhibitor (Angiotension Converting Enzyme inhibitor) such as enalapril or benazapril is generally prescribed. Amlodipine is frequently used in cats. Appropriate home cooked diets balanced for lower sodium, or prescription kibble may be indicated.
There are natural remedies that can help with hypertension and these include Co-enzyme-Q 10, Folic Acid, Omega 3 fatty acids and the herbal Hawthorne. Herbal combinations for heart disease such as Hearty Heart can be helpful but you should check with your veterinarian before using any supplement.
Pets who have hypertension should have their blood pressure checked every 2 to 3 months.