Why is it so important to measure blood pressure in animals?
When blood pressure is measured, two figures are obtained: the higher systolic and the lower diastolic blood pressure. The vet sees from this how efficient the heart is and can assess the elasticity of the blood vessel walls. The systolic blood pressure is measured when blood is squeezed out of the heart and the diastolic pressure is measured as soon as the blood flows into it again when the heart muscle relaxes.
Measuring blood pressure in animals is an important part of a check-up, especially in older animals, and is often part of the review of treatment of existing diseases.
When is it necessary to measure blood pressure in animals?
As in human medicine, it is necessary to measure blood pressure in animals too in certain cases. During operations, part of anaesthetic monitoring consists of measuring a cat’s or dog’s blood pressure. In emergency situations, too, it can be appropriate to measure the blood pressure to keep an eye on the circulation.
In a veterinary examination, blood pressure is measured in dogs or in cats and possibly other pets in order to identify levels that are either too high (hypertension) or too low (hypotension). Blood pressure that is too high, in particular, provides evidence of an underlying disease. Excessively high levels are often found in conjunction with diseases of the kidneys, heart and thyroid and with diabetes. Blood pressure measurement is also important to rule our hypertension when a dog or cat is overweight.
Measurement is required if the animal is taking certain medications or if there are any abnormalities in hormone levels, for instance, an elevated thyroid T4 level in cats. Blood pressure outside the normal range can contribute to permanent damage in different organs. The earlier in its course that a disease is identified, the better the treatment possibilities.
Without treatment, underlying diseases progress faster. In addition, the heart, kidneys, eyes and central nervous system are damaged. Sustained excessively high blood pressure can have fatal effects on blood vessels. Small vessels at the back of the eye are particularly at risk. Untreated high blood pressure for a long time can lead in dogs to glaucoma and, as a result, to blindness. Haemorrhage in the back of the eye occurs often, especially in cats, and the kidneys are often involved also, leading in the long term to kidney failure.
Hypertensive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy caused by high blood pressure can be improved by lowering blood pressure and in some cases can even be cured. Other complications that can occur when blood pressure is not measured regularly in dogs with existing underlying disease are fibrosis of the kidney with oedema and vessel rupture or a brain haemorrhage.
If the vet finds abnormal levels when blood pressure is measured, he or she can prescribe blood pressure-lowering drugs. If your pet is well controlled on the medication, organ damage can be prevented.
Blood pressure measurement in dogs
Dog owners should have their dog’s blood pressure measured once a year. Levels around 134 mm Hg indicate a healthy animal. Some breeds have higher or lower blood pressure by their nature. High blood pressure in dogs is usually a symptom of disease so screening and early detection are particularly important in animals too.
Blood pressure must be measured in a calm and stress-free atmosphere as stress falsifies the levels. We always perform several measurements to get a valid result.
Blood pressure measurement in cats
Cats over the age of seven years are particularly susceptible to thyroid overactivity, diabetes and kidney failure. We therefore recommend regular blood pressure measurements in cats over 7 years. Every third cat with kidney problems has increased blood pressure and thus is at risk of haemorrhage due to burst blood vessels or painfully increased intraocular pressure and of getting glaucoma and going blind as a result.
Blood pressure measurement in cats is necessary to prevent diseases and is often done as part of veterinary check-ups. Unlike the serious diseases that it can cause, the symptoms of high blood pressure in cats are weak or even non-existent.
To obtain reliable blood pressure levels in your cat, it is important for it to come to us and get acclimatised first. It can therefore make sense to give you and your cat some time in a quiet treatment room as the blood pressure level rises with stress.
Several measurements are taken; if your cat’s systolic pressure is over 160 mm Hg, vets talk of hypertension.
How blood pressure is measured in animals
Our veterinary surgeons have various possibilities for measuring blood pressure in your pet as part of a check-up or when there are acute problems. Similarly to in humans, an inflatable cuff is usually placed around a leg or the tail, which causes a brief interruption of the blood flow. The vet reduces the pressure in the cuff steadily. A pressure meter connected to it shows the blood pressure while the dog or cat lies or stands quietly.
The classic way of measuring blood pressure in animals is painless and no anaesthetic is necessary. It is important, however, that the dog or cat is not too nervous. It is ideal if the animal has an opportunity beforehand to get used to the surroundings. Your pet is restrained as little as possible as blood pressure reacts extremely sensitively to external influences. To obtain precise results, the vet will take a number of measurements within a few minutes. The measurement can be monitored exactly through a connected computer and can be analysed immediately.
Have the blood pressure measured at regular intervals
Have blood pressure measured in dogs or in cats as part of their annual check-up. If you notice any change in behaviour, loss of appetite, weight loss or weakness in your pet in the interim, you should contact your vet promptly. If you have any questions about blood pressure measurement or would like to make an appointment, you are welcome to contact us.