Blood Pressure

Should I have my pet's blood pressure taken?
Just like people, animals can have high blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension). High blood pressure is often associated with hyperthyroidism in cats, and both kidney and heart disease in dog and cats. In early stages, some animals will not show any symptoms except an elevated blood pressure. Low blood pressure is rarely a problem except in cases of trauma, shock, or anesthesia and surgery.

What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure (BP) measurements consist of two numbers: the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure occurs when the heart contracts and forces the blood out into the body. Diastolic pressure occurs during the resting period as the heart refills. The systolic pressure is always higher and recorded first. The diastolic is the second number and is always lower. This is the same in humans.

How is blood pressure measured?
A cuff is placed on the front or rear leg, or on the base of the tail. The BP monitor will automatically inflate the cuff, then release the pressure slowly in order to measure the systolic and diastolic pressures. This is similar in principle to automatic BP devices used by many people to monitor their BP at home. However, the BP in animals is much harder to detect because of the small artery sizes and requires a much more sensitive electronic measuring device to obtain accurate measurements.

What is normal blood pressure for my pet?
Normal BP varies between dog breeds and between dogs and cats. The average for dogs approximately 112 (systolic)/75 (diastolic) and for cats is approximately 125/80. It is important that we establish the normal BP value for each individual animal at a young age, while in good health. Then we can monitor changes in pressure that occur with age. Changes in BP can be an important early indicator of dysfunction or disease.

Annual BP monitoring is an important tool in maintaining the health of your pet. Consider adding this diagnostic test to your pet's next exam or ask the doctor for more information about this basic health care assessment.

Posted with permission of Dr. Gaston of the Veterinary Wellness Center