Measuring a dog’s blood pressure from time to time provides information on how efficient the heart is and how elastic the vessel walls are.
In humans it is common practice to measure blood pressure regularly. For some time, measurement of blood pressure even in dogs has been possible and at many veterinarian practices it has even become routine. This is because high blood pressure on a long-term basis can pose serious health risks to dogs, as is also the case for humans.
High blood pressure is generally caused by other conditions e.g. kidney damage or hormonal imbalances which occur more frequently in old age. By measuring blood pressure such issues can be detected at an early stage and treated before further damage is caused.
On the one hand the heart is at risk as it has to pump against the increased resistance. This can lead to circulatory problems, frailties, breathing difficulties and movement disorders. On the other hand, the kidneys are often affected by the consequences of high blood pressure.
The vet can prescribe various medicines for the treatment of dogs: for example a vasodilator to help in acute cases, or a beta-blocker for long-term reduction of blood pressure, which is similar to what is administered to heart patients in human medicine. Finally, there is the possibility to positively influence the condition by providing the dog with a low-salt diet and, in the case of overweight dogs, reducing weight.
A dog should have regular general check-ups.
Generally the vet places a special cuff on the leg, pumping air into the cuff until the blood flow is interrupted temporarily. The pressure will then be lowered continually which allows the blood to flow back again and a pressure gauge is used to read how high the blood pressure is. It is important that the animal is not overly excited or unsettled during this procedure as this could lead to an incorrectly high reading.