Dogs, cats and blood pressure

September 17, 2012

When you visit the doctor, before our physician comes into an examination room, a nurse measures our weight, temperature and blood pressure. When your pet goes to the veterinarian, the nurse comes in to take his weight and temperature, but not blood pressure. Does this mean blood pressure is not important in dogs and cats?

Blood pressure measurement is important in our pets, but in a different way than in humans. As many as one-in-four Americans suffers from high blood pressure and most may not even know it. Hypertension, aptly named the silent killer causes heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

Smoking, drinking and obesity increase our risk of developing hypertension. Some of us are prone to developing hypertension even without smoking, drinking or eating too much due to a predisposition in our genetic profile. Pets become hypertensive from completely different medical conditions.

Pets have different risks

Genetics is the first point where we and our pets differ with regard to hypertension. Inherited hypertension is extremely rare in dogs and cats and because dogs and cats do not drink alcohol or use tobacco; these are not risk factors either. Obesity causes serious medical problems in pets, but not hypertension.

What causes pet hypertension?

The number one cause of hypertension in pets is one form or other of kidney disease. The normal kidney plays a critical role in controlling blood pressure. A diseased kidney can no longer perform well as a blood pressure regulator. Since we see more kidney disease in cats, we see more hypertension in cats, but I have a nice Wirehair Fox Terrier patient who has hypertension as a consequence of kidney disease. Hyperthyroidism, exclusively a feline disease, is another cause of hypertension. Finally, some rare tumors of the adrenal gland can cause hypertension, and I have seen only a small handful of pets with this type of hypertension.

Consequences of pet hypertension

Untreated hypertension causes serious problems in pets: strokes, heart enlargement and damage to the eye causing blindness. Controlling hypertension decreases the risk of these disorders.

Treatment is the same for everyone

If you have hypertension, your doctor has recommended lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and losing weight. You will be prescribed drugs to decrease blood pressure and you may even be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home since some patients get nervous at the doctor’s office and suffer from “white coat” hypertension.

If your pet has hypertension, your veterinarian will recommend lifestyle changes such as a special kidney-friendly food. A common drug used to treat pets with hypertension is amlodipine, a drug also used in people with hypertension. Other treatments will be needed to manage kidney disease or an overactive thyroid gland. Finally, your veterinarian may ask you to monitor your pet’s blood pressure at home since pets also get white coat hypertension. The procedure is not very difficult and The Animal Medical Center has blood pressure monitors to lend pet owners for home monitoring. If you pet has hypertension, ask if home monitoring is necessary.


How Are You Like Your Pet?

December 19, 2011

One of my favorite paintings by the great American artist Norman Rockwell is the 1952 scene “At the Vet’s.” Rockwell skillfully captures what every veterinarian knows: people often look like their pets. In the center of this painting, a Beagle—the all-American dog of the 1950’s—sits on the lap of an all-American boy of the 1950’s. On the left edge of the painting, an elegantly dressed lady wears a black pillbox hat and veil mimicking the hairdo of her elegantly groomed black Standard Poodle.

Pets are much more than caricatures of their owners. We share many similar diseases – diabetes, breast cancer and food-borne illness. Research into the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like these ultimately helps everyone.

Multispecies Melanoma
Take for example the results of a clinical trial published just this month. A DNA melanoma vaccine for dogs, co-developed by The Animal Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has been shown to improve the long-term survival of dogs receiving the vaccine compared to dogs that did not get the vaccine after their oral melanoma was surgically removed. This information paves the way for a human clinical trial of a melanoma vaccine, and because horses get melanomas too, the vaccine is being studied in them as well.

Dogs and Cats Get White Coat Hypertension Too!
Going to the doctor is stressful for everyone, and approximately 10-20% of the population are stressed enough to elevate their blood pressure above the normal range. In some patients, their blood pressure reaches the level when antihypertensive medications are dispensed. This false elevation in blood pressure has been called the “white-coat effect” or “white coat hypertension.” Physicians must work hard to determine if the hypertension is real or stress-related before prescribing medications.

The same white-coat effect has been seen in both dogs and cats having their blood pressure measured in the veterinarian’s office. If your dog or cat has a disease which predisposes him to hypertension, such as chronic kidney disease, your veterinarian will take multiple blood pressure measurements to be sure your pet does not have white coat hypertension.

Ticks Bite Everyone
Lyme disease is the number one tick-transmitted disease seen in humans and a common one in dogs. Most dogs with Lyme disease exhibit lameness, but serious infections can affect the heart and kidneys. Researchers have shown the presence of Lyme disease in a canine population mirrors the geographic distribution of Lyme disease in humans. Furthermore, an uptick in canine cases of Lyme disease predicts an increase in human cases of Lyme disease.

Surprising, isn’t it? You think you love your pet because it is a great companion and an entertaining family member. But because they are like us in many ways, you now know they help keep us healthy too.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Take the Kidney Kwiz in Honor of World Kidney Day

March 9, 2011

World Kidney Day (March 10, 2011) serves to remind us how important early detection and treatment of kidney disease is in our pets. Estimates indicate 0.5-1.5% of dogs and 1-3% of cats seen in veterinary clinics suffer from kidney disorders. The Animal Medical Center’s Renal Medicine Service, headed by Dr. Cathy Langston, has developed a Kidney Kwiz to test your knowledge about your pet’s kidneys and how veterinarians manage kidney disease. To test your Kidney IQ, read the blog below and click on the link to the Kwiz at the end of the blog. Good luck to all.

Cats, dogs, birds and small mammal pets all have 2 kidneys. The kidneys are multitasking organs. It is common knowledge that kidneys clean the blood of the waste products of daily metabolism, but did you know they also maintain normal water balance in the body? Hence, one sign of kidney disease in pets is an increase in water consumption. Much less well known is the kidneys help to regulate blood pressure and produce hormones to simulate red blood cell production in the bone marrow, preventing anemia.

One test to help detect kidney disease is evaluation of a urine sample. Your veterinarian will love you if you collect a urine sample from your pet and take it to you pet’s routine physical examination. If your pet is diagnosed with kidney disease, your veterinarian will want to monitor blood pressure and also will prescribe a kidney friendly diet. High blood pressure (hypertension) is common in pets with kidney disease, 20% of cats with kidney disease and 75% of dogs have hypertension. Kidney disease in dogs and cats can be treated. The most important treatment you as a pet owner can give to your pet with kidney disease is to follow your veterinarian’s prescription for feeding a kidney friendly diet. Kidney friendly diets are designed to decrease the workload on the kidneys and have been proven to lessen clinical signs and prolong survival in pets with moderate to advanced stage kidney disease.

Are you ready to take the Kidney Kwiz?

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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