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Ask Dr. Elliot: Should your vet be taking your pet’s blood pressure?



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High and low blood pressure are potentially life-threatening medical problems, not just for humans, but also for our dogs and cats. Should your vet be taking your pet’s blood pressure during routine exams? We interviewed Benny Bix Ochman Labradoodle’s wonderful homeopathic veterinarian Dr Jill Elliot to find out.

Here’s what Dr Elliot told us:

Pawfun: Why don’t vets routinely take pets’ blood pressure?

Dr Elliot: Most veterinarians do not routinely take pet’s blood pressure if they seem healthy on annual exam or routine exam for specific condition (i.e. diarrhea, vomiting, muscular skeletal issue). Without symptoms, there is no reason to suspect a problem with Blood Pressure. And it would add an additional cost to the client’s visit.

Blood pressure abnormalities are often caused by another (primary) disease. If there are certain signs that the pet might be having an issue with high or low blood pressure most veterinarians usually do suggest testing blood pressure.

Pawfun: What are the danger signs that a pet has high blood pressure?

Dr. Elliot: Pets with low blood pressure may not have any signs. The most common sign of high blood pressure is unusual anxiety and restlessness, especially at night. However the signs most veterinarian would be concerned about are pale gums; animals with kidney disease; certain eye diseases especially if eyes are dilated or retina is detached (partially or completely); any condition that indicates a protein losing situation on blood work; any bleeding into the eyes especially, central nervous system/brain diseases, could be caused by hypertension.

There is no pain involved in obtaining a blood pressure. However, some pets resent the restraint necessary to perform the test. If possible, the pet should be fairly relaxed.

Case study: My friend Stephen Schmidt’s nearly 15 year-old dog Petrus, was diagnosed with high blood pressure a couple of years ago. Here’s what happened:
“A couple of years ago Petrus started having anxiety attacks at night — pacing, panting, digging, and so on instead of sleeping. The vet suspected that blood pressure might be the cause and that is why he checked it. He prescribed 5 mg daily of amlodipine, taken in two 2.5 tablets, one in the morning and one at bedtime. (Many people take the same medication, including my mother.)

Petrus is definitely less anxious at night now than he was — but this is not solely due to the amlodipine. The vet also prescribed Xanax at bedtime, and this has a noticeable calming effect. Petrus usually conks out within just 10 or 15 minutes of taking the pills, though he sometimes wakes up and pants a bit five or six hours later, when the pills wear off.”

Pawfun: Should you ask your vet to take a blood pressure reading?

Dr. Elliot: An owner can always request any additional test from their veterinarian. However they might want to discuss their concern with their veterinarian and reason they are requesting that test. Then ask the veterinarian if they think the test is appropriate for the concerns they are expressing to the vet. It never hurts to run a blood pressure test on any animal. So there is no downside to doing it.

How blood pressure is measured:

The underside of a paw is shaved. With the pet lying on his side, a cuff is placed on the foreleg, halfway between the “elbow” and “wrist.” A gel-coated Doppler ultrasound machine wand is lightly moved over the skin until the veterinarian can hear the sound of the arterial blood flow. The cuff is inflated until the sound cannot be heard and then slowly released. When the sound of the blood flow is heard again, systolic blood pressure is measured.


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1 Comment

w reno

I would think at any wellness visit BP would be checked. It is not invasive and should cause no more stress than any other part of a standard exam.
My senior large dog had his chronic heart failure missed by a vet. We knew he was off and the first Vet we saw did not do a BP. It was not till four months later with a different vet this was picked up on with something as simple as the BP cuff. Yet still it is not routine – when it is really so very easy. Shame.