Hypertension and How to Keep it at Bay!

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Dr Srinivasulu Karnati
The fast paced lifestyle of today gives us a lot of diseases and stress as complimentary gifts. Diabetes, obesity, hypertension etc. seem to have become an integral part of the modern urban life. This ever evolving lifestyle has adverse effects on your pet as well, which means you need to be extra careful.

Lack of physical exercise would lead to obesity, unhealthy eating habits can lead to diabetes and stress can lead to hypertension. You would be surprised to know that even your pets can experience similar health problems.

What is hypertension in dogs?
Hypertension is also referred to as high blood pressure. It occurs when the blood pressure elevates above the threshold that is specified for canines. It affects the dog’s overall health. The degenerative effects can be felt on the heart, kidney, eyes and central nervous system. A lot of people don’t even know that even their pet can suffer from hypertension. Thus, it is essential to be aware of the disease and the symptoms, so that you can get timely medical advice for your furry buddy.

Health is wealth! Keep in check
The standards for dog blood pressure are –
• 150/90 – minimum risk
• 150/99 to 159/95 – normal range and no treatment recommended
• 160/119 to 179/100 – begin treatment to limit the risk to various organs
• 180/120 – immediate treatment recommended
Systolic pressure between 130 – 150 mm Hg is the normal range.

Watch out for these  signs and symptoms
Unfortunately the initial signs and symptoms of hypertension are asymptomatic, which means that your pet may not show any signs of the illness at all.
The most common symptoms that usually appear in the later stages include –
• Seizures
• Disorientation/Circling
• Increased heart rate
• Heart murmurs
• Bleeding from the nose
• Rolling of eye balls
• Loss of normal motor functions
• Blindness
• Enlarged thyroid gland
• Retinal abnormality/Retinal detachment
• Protein & blood in urine
• Swollen or shrunken kidneys
Sometimes the symptoms can also be confused with normal aging process – slowing down and not eating properly. These symptoms would show slowly and eventually affect every organ of the body.
But we always say prevention is better than cure. It is always good to consult your vet at the earliest.

Take care of these breeds the most
Dr Srinivasulu Karnati of Vet N Pet Hospital, Hyderabad says that breeds like Dachshunds, Poodles, Terriers and Retrievers are more prone to diabetes, not hypertension. But you must keep an eye on the symptoms even if your pet is not of these particular breeds.

Types of hypertension in dogs and what causes it
It should be noted that there is no single cause of hypertension in dogs. Primary Hypertension occurs without a known underlying cause; while secondary hypertension occurs due to some other disease.
Primary hypertension is generally seen in humans and is very rare in canines. For canines secondary hypertension is the main cause of concern. International studies suggest that only 0.5 – 10 percent dogs have primary hypertension and secondary hypertension accounts to 80 percent of the total hypertension cases.

“For Primary Hypertension, hereditary or genetic factor are the most common causes. There are multiple factors responsible for Secondary Hypertension like underlying chronic renal disease, hormonal imbalance due to glandular diseases, type of food being fed, obesity and hyperthyroidism,” says Dr Srinivas.

As mentioned there can be various underlying causes that might increase the blood pressure of your pet. The most common of these causes include –
• Chronic kidney disease
• Diabetes
• Over-active thyroid gland
• Over-active adrenal gland (Cushing’s Syndrome)
In high blood pressure, it is likely that the blood vessels would thicken and become stretched as well. This can eventually lead to tearing of blood vessels which may cause bleeding.

The right diagnosis makes a huge difference
Remember those times when your grandmother or mother used to visit the doctor and the first thing would be checking the blood pressure.

Blood pressure can be measured in similar ways for canines as well. An inflatable cuff is placed on their front limp or tail and the blood pressure is checked using a standard blood pressure measuring instrument. This is a traditional method and requires the auscultatory method.

The other way to measure your pet’s blood pressure is through Ultrasonic Doppler method. Dr Srinivas also says that Doppler ultra-sonography technique is the best method of measuring the blood pressure in canines. Using the semi-automatic BP apparatus is also a good option.

Ideally the dog should be still during the procedure, but that is certainly not possible. Our naughty babies are so excited that generally 5 – 7 readings are taken. The stress factor of visiting the veterinarian mostly causes a slight increase in blood pressure. Thus, the first reading is discarded.

I can imagine taking my pet to the vet. My blood pressure and his excitement both would increase exponentially.

Don’t panic… Treatment can control hypertension in your pets
Experts say that it is essential to primarily treat the underlying cause of hypertension. If this is not done, the dog would probably be on blood pressure control medication infinitely. Controlling the primary cause would reverse or control hypertension in cases of secondary hypertension. Dr Srinivas says that the treatment primarily depends upon the type of hypertension and factors influencing hypertension. He also says that the primary aim of the treatment should be to correct the underlying disease that is causing hypertension by/with ant-hypertension therapy and therapeutic nutrition method.

Your vet may also suggest dietary changes and lifestyle modifications. A diet with less sodium is recommended if your pet has high blood pressure. The low sodium food would decrease the water retention and blood volume, in turn lowering your pet’s blood pressure. There are cardiac/obese specific types of pet foods available in the market that can be considered.

Also keep a regular check on your as well as your pet’s blood pressure level. If you pet is a senior citizen (over 7 years of age) then it becomes all the more necessary to include blood pressure examination in their yearly health check-up.

Eat healthy, go for a walk together and kick away the stress! Isn’t it an awesome way for both you and your furry buddy to stay fit.

(Dr Srinivasulu Karnati has been practicing at Vet N Pet Hospital since 1995. He is MD of Zoa Zone Services Private Limited, an ISO-certified infrastructure company, founder of www.virtualpet.clinic and www.mobilepet.clinic)

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