Does your dog have high or low blood pressure?

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from issues with their blood pressure. In fact, high blood pressure occurs in up to 10% of dogs, so it’s important to know the causes, the signs, and how it can be treated.

dog at practice

High vs. low blood pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when your dog’s blood pressure is continually higher than normal. It can affect their heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system.

High blood pressure can be the result of other diseases, in which case it’s called secondary hypertension, or it can be the main issue itself - primary hypertension.

Hypotension, or low blood pressure, can be an ongoing issue or a short-term problem caused by shock, leading to weakness, lethargy, and fainting.

Low blood pressure can also appear in very fit, active dogs such as working Border Collies and Siberian Huskies. In this case, it’s not seen as an issue - rather it’s an indicator of their peak physical condition.

High blood pressure in dogs

Studies have found that between 0.5% and 10% of dogs suffer from high blood pressure, with ages ranging from two to 14 years old.

While the causes of primary hypertension are unknown, research suggests that it could be hereditary. Secondary hypertension is far more common and accounts for around 80% of all high blood pressure cases. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including renal disease, obesity, hormonal issues and hyperthyroidism. Diabetes can also cause high blood pressure, although this is rare in dogs.

Symptoms of high blood pressure in dogs include:

  • seizures
  • disorientation
  • blindness
  • weakness
  • heart murmurs
  • nosebleeds.

If your dog is showing any of the above symptoms, you should see your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will then take several blood pressure tests using an inflatable cuff - similar to that used on humans - around the paw or tail.

If your dog has secondary high blood pressure, treating the underlying disease or illness will bring their blood pressure back to normal levels. If this isn’t possible, your dog will need medication to control the condition indefinitely. Feeding them food that’s low in sodium may also help manage it.

Your dog’s blood pressure will need to be checked regularly and lab tests may be required to measure their reaction to medication.

 

Low blood pressure in dogs

Low blood pressure can be caused by an accident or injury that leads to a significant loss of blood, due to there being less blood in their system.

Various health problems may also lead to low blood pressure, including heart, liver or kidney issues, anaemia or a low red blood cell count. Long-term neglect, malnutrition, and dehydration can also contribute to hypotension.

One of the most common effects of low blood pressure is that the major organs don’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients, causing them to weaken, become damaged and, in rare cases, fail.

Symptoms of low blood pressure include:

  • lethargy
  • weakness
  • fainting or collapse
  • pale or white gums
  • confusion
  • excessive weeing
  • increased thirst.

Since hypotension is usually as a result of a critical injury or trauma, immediate emergency care is needed.

Diagnosing the cause of hypotension is relatively simple, and treating the underlying cause helps bring their blood pressure levels back to normal. Generally speaking, it’s unusual for a vet to provide medication or treatment for low blood pressure as a standalone issue.

 

Blood pressure checks with the Medivet Healthcare Plan

As your dog ages, they’re much more likely to experience issues with their blood pressure. That’s why our Medivet Healthcare Plan offers twice-yearly blood pressure checks for dogs over the age of eight. This can help to identify any underlying issues as soon as possible, keeping your dog happy and healthy for years to come.

Our bespoke plans also include:

Speak to your local Medivet practice to choose a Medivet Healthcare Plan that suits you.

For more advice on maintaining your dog’s blood pressure, speak to your Medivet team.

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