Conquering the Silent Killer--Hypertension
Posted February 28, 2019
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects pets as
well as people. Pet owners are often unaware that their pets may be
at risk for this condition, and that it can be very dangerous if
Dr. John N. Stallone, a professor at
the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, studies hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases in
pets. He discusses the common causes and symptoms of hypertension,
as well as the methods used to treat this disease and bring blood
pressure down to normal levels.
In people, high blood pressure is
usually diagnosed as essential hypertension, which is when the
cause of the elevated blood pressure is unknown. In contrast, high
blood pressure in pets is most likely a result of other diseases
and health conditions.
Most people are unaware that their pet
has hypertension until it is detected during a visit to the
“In general, high blood pressure does
not have any symptoms, which is why it is often called ‘the silent
killer’ by the American Heart Association,” Stallone said.
If symptoms do appear, they are
usually during advanced stages of hypertension. He said that in
these stages, vital organs such as the kidneys, eyes, brain, and
heart may be damaged. Symptoms of organ damage include renal
failure, blindness, stroke, and shortness of breath. In extreme
cases, paralysis and heart failure may occur.
Additionally, Stallone said that some
of the most common causes of high blood pressure in pets are
diseases of the kidney, adrenal gland, and thyroid gland. This
could include renal failure, renal infections or tumors, adrenal
hormone abnormalities, and an overactive or underactive thyroid
If you suspect that your pet has a
disease that puts them at risk for high blood pressure, visit a
veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
“Treatment of high blood pressure in
your pet will depend upon the cause of the hypertension, but most
commonly, medications would be used to lower blood pressure
directly,” Stallone said.
Besides direct treatment with
anti-hypertensive drugs, veterinarians may also suggest treating
the underlying cause of the high blood pressure. For example, drugs
may be given to block an overactive thyroid gland, if that was
found to be the cause of the hypertension.
“If these underlying problems are
treated successfully, then blood pressure can return to normal and
anti-hypertensive drugs can be discontinued,” he said.
Pets with hypertension will need
frequent visits to the veterinarian for blood pressure checks and
treatment of the underlying disease, but after treatment they
should be able to return to a normal routine.
Like with any other medical condition,
the first step is visiting a veterinarian to identify the problem
and create a treatment plan best suited for your pet’s needs.
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Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.
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