Does Your Dog Have High Or Low Blood Pressure?

Table of Contents

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.

What are the causes of high blood pressure in dogs?

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.   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.

How do you treat high blood pressure in dogs?

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 a diet 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. What is hypertension in dogs

What causes 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 and treating low blood pressure in dogs

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.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is diagnosed in a similar way to humans; by measuring with an inflatable cuff around the dog’s foreleg or tail. The cuff is inflated to measure the blood flow through an artery and the reading is presented on the screen for the vet to read.

Having regular blood pressure checks can help to identify any underlying issues as soon as possible, keeping your dog happy and healthy for years to come.

Medivet Healthcare Plan offers twice-yearly blood pressure checks as a bolt on for dogs on the senior plan.

Our bespoke plans also include:

  • Annual booster vaccinations
  • Complete flea, worm, and tick protection for the year
  • A nose-to-tail health check every six months.

If you are concerned about your dog’s blood pressure, your local Medivet practice can offer advice and help.

— Update: 31-12-2022 — found an additional article Systemic Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) in Dogs from the website for the keyword what is hypertension in dogs.

What is blood pressure?What is hypertension in dogs

Blood pressure refers to the pressure against the walls of arteries during the time the heart contracts and empties itself of blood as well as during the time the heart relaxes and fills with blood.

When the heart contracts, this is known as systole, and the systolic pressure is the maximum pressure against the walls of the arteries. When the heart relaxes, it is known as diastole, and diastolic pressure is the minimum pressure against the walls of the arteries.

How is blood pressure measured?

Measuring blood pressure in your dog is very similar to having your own blood pressure measured. In general, your dog will be taken to a quiet room and gently laid on his side, giving him time to calm down. If your veterinarian is using a Doppler method of measurement, they will usually shave a small patch of fur on the underside of your dog’s metacarpal (wrist) or metatarsal (ankle) and a small probe will be taped in place. An appropriate-sized cuff will then be placed above this area and inflated, just like your own doctor would do. As the cuff is deflated, your veterinarian will listen for the pulsing sound of the blood to be heard, at which point the systolic blood pressure will be recorded (unfortunately, determining diastolic blood pressure in pets with this technique is very difficult and unreliable).

Generally, several measurements will be taken over a period of a few minutes, with the results being averaged out.

What is systemic hypertension?

Systemic hypertension describes high blood pressure throughout the entire body. This means a sustained elevation in systolic pressure of 140mmHg or greater, in diastolic pressure of 90mmHg or greater, or both.

My 10-year-old dog has been diagnosed with systemic hypertension high blood pressure. Is this like hypertension in people?

Like people, dogs can experience temporary elevations in blood pressure due to stress effects; for example, just being in a veterinary hospital. It is important to take several readings and to create as quiet an environment as possible. Hypertension in dogs is often due to an underlying disease and when this is the case, it is called secondary hypertension. If no underlying disease is present or can be identified, then it is called primary hypertension.

Hypertension is more common in older dogs, consistent with the development of underlying disease such as chronic kidney disease, or excessive levels of steroids produced by the adrenal glands in dogs with Cushing’s syndrome. Younger dogs may develop hypertension if they have kidney disease due to infection (such as leptospirosis) or a developmental kidney abnormality.

What are the signs of hypertension?

The signs of hypertension include:

  • sudden blindness, bleeding inside the globe of the eye, and persistently dilated pupils
  • detached retinas
  • nervous system signs like depression, head tilt, seizures, disorientation, wobbly or uncoordinated movements (called ataxia), circling, weakness or partial paralysis, or short, rapid, back-and-forth movements of the eyes (called nystagmus)
  • increased drinking and urinating with the progression of chronic kidney disease
  • blood in the urine (called hematuria)
  • bleeding in the nose and nasal passages (known as epistaxis or nosebleed)
  • heart murmurs or abnormal heart rhythms

What causes hypertension in dogs?

The cause of primary hypertension is unknown. Secondary hypertension accounts for a majority of hypertension in dogs, and can be attributed to kidney disease, adrenal gland disease, diabetes mellitus (less common), pheochromocytoma (adrenal gland tumor and very uncommon), or central nervous system disease (very rare).

How is hypertension typically treated in dogs?

The treatment of dogs with hypertension depends upon the underlying cause, if there is one. If the dog develops a serious complication related to hypertension like acute kidney failure or bleeding into the eye, there may be a need for hospitalization. In general, once any underlying condition is appropriately managed, medication and nutrition are important to normalizing blood pressure.

Medications that are commonly used to manage hypertension in dogs include angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists (ARBs), beta blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers. Additional medications may be required depending upon the response to initial therapy. Therapeutic nutrition is generally accepted as an important part of long-term management.

What kind of monitoring will be required for my dog?

The treatment goal for a dog with hypertension is a systolic pressure of 140mmHg or less, and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg or less. Periodic laboratory testing will be required to monitor for side effects of medication and progression of disease.

Potential complications of hypertension in the dog include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • retinal degeneration and subsequent blindness
  • bleeding into the eye
  • stroke (cerebral vascular accident)

What can I expect for my dog’s long-term outlook?

The course of hypertension in dogs depends on the underlying cause. When blood pressure is well managed, the risks for potential complications are minimized. Medication for hypertension is generally a lifetime undertaking and may be adjusted over time as needed.

— Update: 31-12-2022 — found an additional article Hypertension in Dogs: What’s Normal, What’s Not, How to Help from the website for the keyword what is hypertension in dogs.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, in dogs is a warning sign and complication of many canine diseases. Recognizing the signs can be tricky, especially as your dog ages. But knowledge is power and hypertension can be diagnosed and managed. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby equips you to be proactive in caring for a senior dog with hypertension.

What is hypertension in dogs

If you notice your dog is slowing down or exhibiting changes in behavior, how can you differentiate between normal signs of aging and something more serious like hypertension?

Knowledge is the best line of defense, so let’s break down all things hypertension. By the end of this article, you’ll know what is normal blood pressure for a dog, what is considered high, how hypertension is diagnosed, and treatment options.

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What is blood pressure?

To understand hypertension in dogs, first we need to understand blood pressure. By definition, blood pressure is the measurement of the force your dog’s blood exerts against his blood vessel walls. Adequate pressure is critical to maintaining blood flow to your dog’s organs so that his or her cells are continuously supplied with life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients. Blood pressure that’s too low or too high presents problems, so knowing what’s normal is key.

What is normal blood pressure for a dog?

When looking at blood pressure values, there are usually two numbers: the top number (systolic blood pressure) and the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure). When assessing blood pressure, it is important to look at both of these numbers.

For dogs, normal systolic blood pressure is within a range of 110-160. Normal diastolic dog blood pressure is 60-90. This also might be written as the normal range is 110/60 to 160/90.

Also, there is a third number that you might hear your veterinarian mention. This is the MAP, or mean arterial pressure. The MAP is the average blood pressure through the whole body for one cycle of the heart pumping. The normal MAP blood pressure for dogs is 85-120.

What is high blood pressure in dogs?

So, what if a dog’s blood pressure is higher than those normal values? If this is the case, then your dog is experiencing high blood pressure (also called hypertension).

What is hypertension in dogs
If your dog’s blood pressure is higher than the normal range, they have hypertension.

Hypertension is often due to an underlying disease. But hypertension can also cause further disease, including damage to the brain, kidneys, and eyes.

Blood pressure is considered high if one of the three values (systolic, diastolic, or MAP) is elevated. So, high blood pressure in dogs is defined as blood pressure higher than 160/100. One or both of these numbers might be elevated.

High blood pressure in dogs can also be defined as a MAP higher than 120-140.

It’s important to note, some veterinarians may use slightly different numbers depending on how blood pressure is being measured and depending on your dog’s history.

What causes hypertension in dogs?

Now that you know what hypertension is, you are probably wondering what causes it? Hypertension falls into two main categories:

  • Primary hypertension: Rarer of the two, this is high blood pressure that is not attributed to an underlying cause.
  • Secondary hypertension: Most cases of hypertension in dogs present secondarily to a primary disease that alters blood pressure.

Underlying causes of secondary hypertension

There are several canine diseases that can cause secondary hypertension. Some include:

  • Kidney failure in dogs
  • Diabetes
  • Adrenal gland disease
  • Cushing’s disease in dogs
  • Central nervous system disease (very rare cause)

If secondary hypertension develops, it can sometimes make the original underlying disease worse.

Also, did you notice that these diseases are all common in senior dogs? That means older dogs are at high risk of developing hypertension, so you’ll want to look out for its signs.

What are the symptoms of hypertension in dogs?

If your dog suffers from one of the underlying diseases mentioned above, it is important that you monitor your furry friend at home. Signs of hypertension in dogs include:

  • Sudden blindness
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • Increased thirst in dogs
  • Increased urination
  • Blood in urine
  • A lethargic dog/ depression
  • Disorientation/ circling
  • Dog nose bleeds
  • Head tilt
  • Symptoms associated with heart disease and heart murmurs in dogs (coughing, collapse, weakness)
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these signs, you should consult your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will want to measure your dog’s blood pressure to see if he or she is in any danger from hypertension.

How is blood pressure measured?

What is hypertension in dogs
Photo credit: Dr. Kristi Busby, DVM, Blue Ridge Animal Clinic

Your dog’s blood pressure—and the way your veterinarian measures it—is similar to the way your doctor takes your pressure.

When you go to the doctor, often a nurse wraps a blood pressure cuff around your arm measuring two different values: systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure measures the maximum force of blood against your artery walls while your ventricles squeeze pushing blood to the rest of your body. Your diastolic blood pressure measures the minimum force of blood against your artery walls as your heart relaxes and your ventricles refill with blood. Your blood pressure is then read as your systolic pressure (top number) over your diastolic blood pressure (bottom number).

Some veterinarians will measure blood pressure the same way, getting both a systolic and diastolic number. Other veterinarians will only measure their patients’ systolic blood pressure, since this is typically the number we care the most about.

Sometimes taking blood pressure on a dog can be a fine art. Cuffs can shift on a dog’s hair. Dogs might move and make the blood pressure cuff fall off. So, in order to get an accurate measurement, your veterinarian will take several blood pressure readings then average them together to arrive at a measurement.

How is hypertension diagnosed in dogs?

Your veterinarian can easily check your dog’s blood pressure during an office visit using three pieces of equipment:

  1. Blood pressure cuff: The inflatable cuff is wrapped around your dog’s leg. It is temporarily filled with air to block blood flow through an underlying artery.
  2. Doppler: Placed over an artery below the cuff, the Doppler allows your veterinarian to hear the blood flowing with each pulsation. 
  3. Sphygmomanometer: As the cuff deflates, the sphygmomanometer measures the pressure. The pressure at which blood flow resumes through the artery is your dog’s systolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure higher than 160 mmHg poses a significant risk of damage to various organs within your dog’s body. Referred to as target-organ damage (TOD), blood pressure this high needs to be addressed immediately.

For a demonstration of how a dog’s blood pressure is taken at the veterinary office, watch the video below…

Watch Dr. Kristi Busby of Blue Ridge Animal Clinic in Alabama demonstrate and explain how veterinarians screen for hypertension in senior dogs. Video credit: Dr. Kristi Busby, DVM, Blue Ridge Animal Clinic.

PRO TIP: If a client comes to my office specifically to have a dog’s blood pressure checked, I do everything I can to avoid “white coat syndrome,” which happens in dogs just like humans. I prefer to put the patient and owner in an exam room for about twenty minutes for the dog to settle down before attempting a reading. I ask if my client would prefer the lights on or off, and I encourage him or her to play calming music on their phone. After a few minutes, most dogs have settled and will yield a more accurate result.

Is blood pressure monitoring part of a healthy dog’s regular veterinary visit?

When you go to your doctor, you probably have your blood pressure checked as part of a routine screening. This is not necessarily the case for all of our canine companions.

In fact, according to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), routine blood pressure screening for young, healthy dogs is not recommended for two reasons:

  • Primary hypertension in dogs (meaning high blood pressure not secondary to another disease) is much less common than in people.
  • There is a high likelihood of false elevated pressures when screening nervous, excited animals in the veterinary office.

However, there are some important exceptions to this that are critical to call out:

  1. Routine blood pressure monitoring is very important if a dog has an underlying medical diagnosis which predisposes him or her to elevated blood pressure. Two good examples of this are renal (kidney) disease and Cushing’s syndrome in dogs.
  2. Routine blood pressure monitoring is very important when a dog is on certain medications that impact blood pressure. Proin, a commonly prescribed urinary incontinence drug, is one example of a medication that may cause hypertension in dogs.
  3. Routine blood pressure monitoring is also critically important for senior dogs. As a proactive dog parent, you know that early detection of health issues increases the opportunity for a successful outcome. In fact, the 2018 ACVIM consensus statement states,

What are the complications from hypertension in dogs?

Hypertension itself will not cause problems for your dog. However, consistently high blood pressure, or systemic hypertension, will likely cause target-organ damage (TOD), which can have dangerous consequences for dogs. Organs typically affected by systemic hypertension include:

  • Brain: High blood pressure can cause depression, lethargy, anxiety, or seizures in dogs.
  • Eyes: High pressure in ocular vessels can lead to bleeding in the back of the eye or retinal detachment causing sudden blindness.
  • Kidneys: Hypertension can accelerate the stages of kidney disease in dogs, causing protein loss in the urine and toxin build-up in your dog’s blood. This leads to more lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Heart and blood vessels: Hypertension can lead to congestive heart failure. This causes fluid in your dog’s lungs, which impedes breathing and oxygen delivery.

Cognitive dysfunction, vision problems, kidney disease, and heart failure already affect many senior dogs. Hypertension can worsen these conditions.

What is hypertension in dogs
Dr. Chris Nettune, veterinary ophthalmologist, performing fundic exam of the retina to check for hypertension

For example, if your dog’s kidneys are slowly failing, high blood pressure can speed up the decline. If your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction, hypertension can contribute to already-present confusion and anxiety. Also, it can be particularly challenging to detect changes in dogs with cognitive dysfunction since these dogs often have little quirks you have grown accustomed to (and probably find quite endearing, too).

What is the treatment for hypertension in dogs?

Once your veterinarian reaches the conclusion that your dog has hypertension, treatment can help maintain normal blood pressure. The goal is to decrease the likelihood of TOD and optimize your dog’s quality of life.

Many medications are available to manage high blood pressure. Finding the right treatment for your dog may take some trial and error. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe medication for your dog and recheck his blood pressure to see if it is working. Dosage adjustments and medication changes may be necessary for your vet to find the right treatment for your dog.

Once your canine companion is on a good medication routine, your veterinarian will still want to check him or her regularly. It is important to continue to monitor blood pressure closely in case there are any changes in the pressures. If this happens, your veterinarian might need to adjust doses and medications again.

In addition to managing blood pressure, it’s important to make your dog’s environment as comfortable and safe as possible. Behavior changes and anxiety brought on by hypertension may not fully resolve with treatment, particularly in dogs with cognitive dysfunction.

You may find that your senior dog has anxiety at night, has trouble sleeping, and is up pacing the house at all hours. Also, night time can increase the risk of senior dogs being disoriented or slipping while walking. One solution I suggest are Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips® dog nail grips to help improve traction so your dear old dog doesn’t slip and fall. 

Can a dog parent check a dog’s blood pressure at home?

As your dog’s biggest advocate, you may be wondering if you can monitor your dog’s blood pressure at home using a human blood pressure cuff.

This is a controversial issue.

After polling some of my veterinary colleagues, the general consensus was “no.”

Here’s why at-home blood pressure monitoring may not be in your furry friend’s best interest:

  1. Checking your dog’s blood pressure is not as straightforward as say, checking blood sugar levels (which I am a big fan of monitoring at home). With the latter, you have two straightforward tasks: get a tiny amount of blood and insert it into a machine for reading. With checking blood pressure, the learning curve is higher and there is more room for error. For example, if the cuff size is wrong and/or incorrectly placed, results will be dramatically skewed.
  2. Also, I suspect human devices use a different algorithm than those designed for dogs. While this is an unconfirmed hunch, I do know most veterinarians wouldn’t make adjustments to medications based on DIY readings alone. It is too much liability and it may not be in the best interest of your dog. (Until proven accurate, I would not recommend human machines for the job.)

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What is hypertension in dogs
Blood pressure cuff on a dog’s leg

Finally, one of my veterinary colleagues shared a cautionary story of a dog who was diagnosed with hypertension by two veterinary facilities. Both facilities recommended treatment for the dog.

The dog’s parent (a human physician) doubted the diagnosis, bought a human pediatric monitor and began monitoring the dog. Based on his DIY readings, he chose not to start his dog on blood pressure medication.

Over time, my veterinary colleague watched as the dog developed organ disease consistent with signs of hypertension (TOD). Sadly, my colleague believes high blood pressure was a contributing factor to the dog’s demise.

However, you, your dog, and your veterinarian make a great team. If your dog has hypertension, there are many treatment options to help manage this condition under the guidance of your veterinarian.


The prognosis for a dog with hypertension depends heavily on the underlying cause of the high blood pressure. For dogs with multiple, complicated diseases, the prognosis can be guarded. However, dogs who are well managed on medication, can do very well and continue to enjoy many years!

For the complications and risks to be minimized, it is important that you continue to closely monitor your dog and follow your veterinarian’s instructions exactly. Blood pressure medication is likely going to be needed for the remainder of your dog’s life. Follow-up monitoring and veterinary exams will be needed too.

The good news is that by partnering with your veterinarian, you and your dog can continue to create more special memories together.

You are most qualified to know when your dog is feeling off

As you spend time with your senior dog, be sensitive to changes in attitude, behavior, and eating habits. You are the person most qualified to recognize when your dog is feeling off. If you notice changes in your dog, even if they are slight, alert your veterinarian immediately to discuss the need for an office visit and physical examination. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent further decline and preserve your dog’s quality of life. ♥️

Does your beloved dog have hypertension?

Share your story and any tips and tricks you’ve discovered along the way.

— Update: 31-12-2022 — found an additional article How to manage high blood pressure in dogs from the website for the keyword what is hypertension in dogs.

Did you know that dogs, like humans, can suffer from hypertension? Also known as high blood pressure, it’s a common ailment in dogs. Having high blood pressure means that as blood circulates in the body, the force in which it comes against the artery walls is too high. Like with humans, if left untreated, high blood pressure in dogs can cause health complications, so it’s important to know what to look out for and how to keep your furry friend healthy.

What causes high blood pressure in dogs?

Dogs can have one of two types of high blood pressure: primary or secondary, says Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM, a veterinarian based in West Chapel, Fla., and contributor to Not a Bully.

Primary hypertension doesn’t have a known cause, although genetics likely play a role in some breeds. Secondary hypertension is elevated blood pressure as the result of another health condition, like tumors, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances. Secondary hypertension is much more common in dogs than primary, said Dr. Phillips, so if a dog has elevated blood pressure, typically there’s an underlying cause.

Diet and high-sodium foods can make hypertension in dogs worse, but one of the biggest contributors for today’s dogs is obesity.

What’s normal blood pressure for dogs?

Healthy blood pressure for most dogs ranges from about 110/60 mmHg to 160/90 mmHg, although the ranges can vary slightly by breed.

Most veterinary clinics will only measure systolic blood pressure, or the first number, which indicates how much pressure the dog’s blood is exerting against its artery walls while the heart beats.

Because dogs at the vet are often frightened or stressed, this is taken into account when interpreting blood pressure measurements, says Megan Conrad, BVMS, a veterinarian living in Oregon and a member of Hello Ralphie.

RELATED: What are normal blood pressure levels?

How do I know if my dog has high blood pressure?

High blood pressure in dogs isn’t uncommon, but often goes undiagnosed, says Dr. Conrad. The signs are subtle and can be easily missed by dog owners. Hypertension tends to get picked up during a routine wellness exam or when a patient brings in their pet to investigate something unrelated. If you have a senior dog, your vet may be checking blood pressure regularly.

Outside of a vet visit, the symptoms of high blood pressure in dogs to keep an eye out for are:

  • Seizures
  • Changes in urination habits or bloody urine
  • Nose bleeds
  • Confusion, circling, and disorientation 
  • Broken blood vessels in the eye
  • Changes in vision

Because these symptoms aren’t specific to high blood pressure and could have other causes, it’s important to see your vet and get diagnostic work done if your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms.

How do you treat a dog with high blood pressure?

If your dog has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, there’s no need to panic. 

“Because the majority of dogs suffer from secondary hypertension, treating the underlying condition causing elevated blood pressure is the best approach,” Dr. Phillips says. In most cases, once the other condition is managed, the dog’s blood pressure will return to normal.

Your vet may also recommend lifestyle changes for your dog related to the underlying disease that will help lower blood pressure. For example, if heart disease is the culprit, your dog may need to be on a low-sodium diet. If it’s because your dog is obese, you might need to take the dog out for more walks or reduce its portion sizes to help it lose weight.

Veterinarians also use a variety of medications to directly manage hypertension, says Dr. Phillips. If your dog is put on medication, it’s important to monitor them regularly, as their medicine type and dose rate may need to be adjusted. These can include ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, or calcium channel blockers, just like the ones humans take to treat hypertension, such as:

  • Zestril (lisinopril)
  • Altace (ramipril)
  • Lotensin (benazepril)
  • Vasotec (enalapril)
  • Norvasc (amlodipine)
  • Phenoxybenzamine
  • Minipress (prazosin)

You can use SingleCare to save up to 80% for pet prescriptions—as long as they are human medications, too. Most medications that you would pick up at your regular pharmacy are eligible for savings when you bring your pet Rx coupon (or the SingleCare app) to the counter.

RELATED: Can I save on medication for my pets?

How do I check my dog’s blood pressure at home?

Once your dog has been diagnosed with hypertension your vet may want frequent blood pressure measurements performed. If this is the case, you may be able to take measurements at home. “Veterinary-specific blood pressure monitors have smaller cuffs for smaller patients but beyond that, the devices are quite similar,” Dr. Phillips explains. 

You can take a blood pressure reading from the tail or any of your dog’s four limbs. If your dog is especially short-limbed, like a dachshund, then the tail will be the best choice. Otherwise, it’s whatever location your dog most easily allows.

For an accurate reading, choosing the cuff size for your dog is important. The rule of thumb is that the width of the cuff should be 40% of the circumference of the dog’s limb, according to Dr. Phillips. A too-narrow cuff will usually show falsely elevated blood pressure, while one that’s too wide will show a falsely low reading. A handy trick is to lay the cuff lengthwise on the dog’s limb (or tail); an appropriately sized cuff will cover a little under half the limb.

Once you have the correct cuff size and the best location for your dog, it’s time to check the dog’s blood pressure. Higher stress will likely lead to a higher blood pressure reading, so you may want to reduce the dog’s stress before the reading by having it wear the cuff for a few minutes before starting the machine. Help your dog get comfortable with the cuff and reward calm behavior with positive reinforcements like treats, pats, and verbal praise.

Take note of what limb you use during the reading, so you can keep consistent with every blood pressure reading. Take several readings, keeping in mind that the first few may be high unless your dog is used to the process. “Take the median of several readings and document that for future reference,” says Dr. Phillips.

Since most dogs have high blood pressure because of another condition, the best way to keep your dog healthy and its blood pressure in a normal range is to be consistent with your vet’s visits, ensure that they get treated for any other health issues that may arise, and give them lots of pats—the last one may not be medically required, but your dog will approve.

— Update: 31-12-2022 — found an additional article Systemic Hypertension in Dogs & Cats from the website for the keyword what is hypertension in dogs.

What is hypertension in dogs

Amy Dixon-Jimenez, DVM; Gregg Rapoport, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology); and Scott A. Brown, VMD, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM

Systemic arterial hypertension is increasingly recognized as a disease that impacts survival and quality of life for small animal patients and, as such, is being diagnosed with more frequency.

Patients with hypertension (HT) are often subclinical or demonstrate clinical signs corresponding to another underlying disease process. However, chronically sustained HT can damage the eyes, kidneys, brain, and cardiovascular system; injuries referred to as target-organ damage (Table 1).1-3 The rationale for treating hypertension in dogs and cats is to minimize or prevent these injuries.

What is hypertension in dogs

Measurement of Systemic Arterial Blood Pressure

Diagnosis and management of HT in dogs and cats should be based on the patient’s blood pressure (BP) measurement.

Selecting Patients

Routine screening of selected patients, rather than a general screening program, is recommended. While idiopathic HT occurs in dogs and cats, HT associated with concurrent clinical disease is the most common form in veterinary patients. The diseases most often associated with HT include:

  • Chronic or acute kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidis
  • Hyperadrenocorticism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Hyperaldosteronism.

Measurement of BP in patients with these conditions is recommended. As many diseases associated with HT occur in older animals, measurement of BP can be part of a geriatric screening profile, typically in dogs and cats over 8 years of age.

Medications may also cause secondary HT, with erythropoietin and corticosteroid administration being potential contributors.2

Cuff Choice & Placement

Cuff choice and placement are important. The width of the chosen cuff should be 30% to 40% of the circumference of the measurement site (Figure 1). Most cuffs have an artery arrow imprinted on them, which does not need to be pointed in the direction of blood flow. However, the arrow should overlie the anatomic site of the vessel in the extremity.

  • The width of the cuff applied to a site should be 30% to 40% of its circumference. Oversized cuffs give a falsely low value and cuffs that are markedly < 30% of circumference will yield a falsely elevated value for blood pressure.
  • Circumference measurements should be obtained with a flexible metric ruler.

Sites most commonly used in dogs and cats include the:

  • Tail (where the median caudal artery lies ventrally)
  • Antebrachium (where the median artery and its branches are medial)
  • Tarsus (where there are numerous ventral, dorsal, and arterial branches).

All of these sites provide comparable readings with choice dependent on animal comfort and operator preference. It is ideal for the cuff to be located at the level of the base of the heart because each 1 cm of distance the cuff lies below the heart base causes an artifactual increase of 0.7 mm Hg in the measurement result. In most patients and measurement positions, this artifact is not clinically important.

Measurement Devices

Most commonly, devices that indirectly measure blood pressure are utilized. These devices are usually based on Doppler (Figure 2) or oscillometric (Figure 3) principles. Doppler ultrasonic devices are most commonly used to screen for HT, but choice of measurement device depends on operator experience and preference.

Read more  Hypertension in Dogs: What’s Normal, What’s Not, How to Help

  • Doppler devices are generally used only for systolic blood pressure measurements; determination of diastolic value is felt by many to be unreliable.
  • The ultrasonic probe is placed distal to the cuff (in this instance on the plantar surface of the paw).
  • While hair is not usually clipped on a limb at the site of cuff placement, clipping hair and application of acoustic gel will often improve the clarity of the ultrasonic probe’s signal.
  • Some technicians attach the probe with white adhesive tape; however, it is generally easier to manually hold the ultrasonic probe in place for conscious blood pressure recordings.
  • It is also helpful to use earphones in order to prevent audible harsh sounds from startling the animal, reducing the reliability of the blood pressure determination.
  • These types of devices generally cycle automatically and provide a value for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
  • As with the Doppler device, it is recommended to obtain at least 5 readings and average the middle 3 to determine the result of a blood pressure measurement session.

Blood Pressure Results

It is important to recognize that screening for HT should be conducted in a calm, awake animal in a quiet environment by trained personnel. If the animal is distressed, anxious, or struggling during the measurement session, an artifactual increase in BP, referred to as “white-coat HT” can occur. Such measurements are considered unreliable.

At least 5 measurements should be taken. The readings giving the highest and lowest value for systolic BP should be discarded with the final result determined as the average of the remaining 3 or more values, as long as these remaining systolic BP results are within 20 mm Hg. If the remaining systolic BPs differ by more than 20 mm Hg, the measurement session should be repeated.

The following should all be recorded:

  • Animal’s position and attitude
  • Cuff size and measurement site
  • Cuff site circumference (cm)
  • Results of all BP measurements
  • Rationale for excluding values
  • Final (mean) result
  • Interpretation of the result by the veterinarian

It is customary to conduct at least 2 measurement sessions, separated by 30 minutes or more, before concluding that an animal is in need of antihypertensive therapy.

Treatment of Hypertension

The initial assessment of an animal suspected to have HT should include:

  • Recognizing conditions that may be contributing to an increase in BP
  • Identifying and characterizing target-organ damage
  • Determining if there are any concurrent conditions that may complicate antihypertensive therapy (eg, heart or kidney disease).

Because HT is often a silent, slowly progressive condition requiring vigilance and life-long therapy, it is important to be absolutely certain about the diagnosis. A decision to use antihypertensive drugs should be based on the BP stage (Table 2) and integration of all clinically available information. The ultimate goal of therapy is to minimize target-organ damage while providing a good quality of life.

What is hypertension in dogs

Which Patients to Treat

In people, any reduction of BP that does not produce overt hypotension lowers the risk of target-organ damage. This finding remains to be confirmed in dogs and cats but both the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Hypertension Consensus Panel 3 and the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS)4 recommend that BP be categorized on the basis of risk of future target-organ damage (Table 2).

Although interbreed differences in BP exist in dogs, only the difference for sighthounds (20 mm Hg higher values for each category) mandates separate categorization at present.

The general consensus is to institute therapy in a patient with evidence of target-organ damage (Table 1) if reliable measurements of BP indicate that systolic BP (SBP) exceeds 160 and/or diastolic BP (DBP) exceeds 100 mm Hg (AP2 or AP3).


Antihypertensive therapy must be individualized to the patient and concurrent conditions. Regardless of the initial BP, the ideal goal of therapy would be to reduce the risk of future target-organ damage to substage AP0 (SBP < 150 and/or DBP < 95 mm Hg).3,4 The response to effective antihypertensive therapy is typically a 25 to 50 mm Hg decline in BP. The minimal goal is to reduce the risk for target-organ damage by lowering the patient to a new stage.

In a hypertensive crisis, where severe ocular or central nervous system target-organ damage is present, emergency treatment requires immediate reduction in BP. However, in other circumstances, BP reduction should be achieved with gradual, persistent lowering of BP over several weeks.

Dogs with Hypertension

  • The initial therapeutic choice is often an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEI).3 The starting dosage should be at or above the lower end of the recommended range (Table 3).
  • The upper limit of the recommended dosage for ACEIs is controversial as some experts will stop at this dosage and consider adding a different agent, typically a calcium channel blocker (CCB), while others will increase the ACEI dosage further.
  • If an antihypertensive agent of choice is only partially effective, the usual approach is to increase the dosage and, if still ineffective, then add another drug. While not ideal, many dogs with significant hypertension will require more than 2 agents.
  • Certain disease conditions may be best addressed by adding specific classes of agents to the ACEI/CCB combination, such as:
    • Alpha- (eg, phenoxybenzamine) and beta-blockers (eg, atenolol) or surgical excision for pheochromocytoma
    • Aldosterone-receptor blocker (eg, spironolactone) or surgical excision for primary hyperaldosteronism.
  • Diuretics (eg, hydrochlorothiazides) are not commonly used, but may be useful, especially in patients with concurrent hypertension and nephrotic syndrome.
  • Angiotensin-receptor blockers represent a newer class of agents that block the binding of angiotensin II to its receptors, having similar overall effects to ACEIs. At this time, the effects and safety profiles of these drugs in dogs and cats are not well known. However, dosage recommendations are available for dogs (Table 3).

What is hypertension in dogs

Cats with Hypertension

  • In cats with HT, the principles are as for dogs, though the initial therapeutic choice should be a CCB, typically amlodipine.3
  • Second choice agents, particularly in proteinuric cats, would be an ACEI.
  • Beta-blockers (eg, atenolol) have fallen out of favor for initial treatment of HT in people due to poor outcomes in several clinical trials.5 Their use in veterinary patients has most often been for hyperthyroid cats because they antagonize the effects of elevated heart rate and cardiac output.6 One study found that atenolol decreased systolic blood pressure in 70% of hyperthyroid cats but did not reliably decrease pressure into the minimal or moderate target organ damage risk category.7
  • Many experts recommend a CCB as initial therapy in hyperthyroid cats with HT, adding a beta-blocker if additional antihypertensive efficacy is needed.
  • It is important to remember that hyperthyroid cats are more likely to have HT after therapeutic intervention to lower their thyroid hormone levels, perhaps due to an associated worsening of renal function.

Emergency Treatment for Hypertension
An exception to the above gradual approach, where substantial time (weeks) is allowed between dosage adjustment, is animals with AP3 and evidence of severe or progressing neural or ocular target-organ damage.

This generally constitutes an emergency, where combination therapy with an ACEI plus a CCB is an appropriate first step in dogs, and a CCB will often be used alone in cats.8

A direct vasodilator, such as nitroprusside or hydralazine, is an alternative treatment choice in hypertensive emergencies.

The goal of emergency treatment in either species is to reduce BP within hours to slow rapidly progressing ocular or neural target-organ damage, adjusting dosages within that time frame as necessary.

Dietary Considerations

While available evidence suggests sodium restriction alone generally does not reduce BP, high salt intake may produce adverse consequences in some settings. Therefore, low-salt diets are recommended for hypertensive patients.

Monitoring Antihypertensive Therapy

In most situations, HT is not an emergency and 3 to 4 weeks should be allowed between dosage adjustments.

Initial Recheck

  • A dog in IRIS Stage 1 or 2 chronic kidney disease (CKD) should be evaluated 3 to 14 days after any change in antihypertensive therapy.
  • In unstable patients and those with IRIS Stage 3 or 4 CKD, this recheck should be conducted earlier, perhaps within 3 to 5 days.
  • Patients deemed to be hypertensive emergencies and hospitalized patients, particularly those receiving fluid therapy or pharmacological agents with cardiovascular effects, should be assessed daily or several times daily depending on severity of crisis.

The purpose of these short-term assessments is to identify findings that are unexpected (eg, new or worsening target-organ damage) or adverse effects (eg, marked worsening of azotemia or systemic hypotension).

Clinical findings of weakness or syncope coupled with a BP < 110/60 mm Hg indicates systemic hypotension and therapy should be adjusted accordingly. Hypotension is uncommon if the initial diagnosis of HT was correct.

There has been some concern about acute exacerbation of azotemia with ACEI therapy, but this is unusual and modest increases in blood creatinine concentration (< 30%) are generally tolerable.

Further Evaluation

Follow-up evaluations to assess efficacy and adjust therapy should include:

  • Assessment of BP
  • Blood creatinine concentration
  • Urinalysis with quantitative assessment of proteinuria
  • Funduscopic examination
  • Any other specific evaluations depending on circumstances (eg, target-organ damage, causes of secondary hypertension, concurrent conditions).

A key predictive indicator of antihypertensive efficacy is its effect on proteinuria: a benefit is predicted if the antihypertensive regimen is antiproteinuric (eg, normalizes the urine protein:creatinine ratio to < 0.2 or reduces the ratio by at least 50%).

The frequency and nature of re-evaluations will vary depending on:

  • BP stage
  • Stability of BP
  • Other aspects of the health of the patient
  • Frequency of dosage adjustment to antihypertensive therapy.

Since signs of progression of target-organ damage can be subtle, BP should be closely monitored over time in patients receiving antihypertensive therapy, even when HT is seemingly well-controlled.

ACEI = angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor;
BP = blood pressure; CCB = calcium channel blocker;
CKD = chronic kidney disease;
DBP = diastolic blood pressure;
HT = hypertension ;
IRIS = International Renal Interest Society;
SBP = systolic blood pressure


  1. Brown SA, Henik RA. Diagnosis and treatment of systemic hypertension. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1998; 28(6):1481-1494.
  2. Stepien RL, Henik RA. Systemic hypertension. In Bonagura JD, Twedt DC (eds): Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XIV. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 2009, pp 713-717.
  3. Brown S, Atkins R, Bagley A, et al. Guidelines for the identification, evaluation, and management of systemic hypertension in dogs and cats. J Vet Intern Med 2007; 21:542-558.
  4. Elliott J, Watson ADJ. Chronic kidney disease: Staging and management. In Bonagura JD, Twedt DC (eds): Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XIV, 2009, pp 883-892.
  5. De Caterina AR, Leone AM. Why beta-blockers should not be used as first choice in uncomplicated hypertension. Am J Cardiol 2010; 105:1433-1438.
  6. Snyder PS, Cooke KL. Management of hypertension. In Ettinger SJ (ed): Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 2005, pp 477-479.
  7. Henik RA, Stepien RL, Wenholz L, et al. Efficacy of atenolol as a single antihypertensive agent in hyperthyroid cats. J Feline Med Surg 2008; 10:577-582.
  8. Brown S. Hypertensive crisis. In Silverstein DC, Hopper KA (eds): Small Animal Critical Care Medicine, St. Louis: Elsevier, 2008, pp 176-179.

What is hypertension in dogsAmy Dixon-Jimenez, DVM, is a cardiology resident in the Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. She shares an interest in the diagnosis and management of systemic hypertension with her coauthors.

What is hypertension in dogsGregg Rapoport, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology), is an assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to his current position, he was a staff cardiologist at Angell Animal Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, and before then, a staff cardiologist at Michigan Veterinary Specialists, Southfield, Michigan. Dr. Rapoport received his DVM from University of Wisconsin and completed a small animal rotating internship at The Animal Medical Center, New York City, and a cardiology residency at University of Wisconsin.

What is hypertension in dogsScott A. Brown, VMD, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM, holds joint appointments in the Departments of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery and Physiology & Pharmacology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and is a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professor. His research interests are focused on nephrology and systemic hypertension and he has published over 150 articles and book chapters on related topics. Dr. Brown has received the University of Georgia’s Creative Research Medal, AVMA’s Excellence in Research Award, Royal Canin Award, and National Norden Distinguished Teacher Award. He received his veterinary degree from University of Pennsylvania and completed an internship and residency in small animal internal medicine at UGA, where he also received a PhD in renal pathophysiology. Dr. Brown completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Nephrology Research & Training Center of the University of Alabama’s School of Medicine.


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