Pulmonary hypertension in dogs is a term used to describe an medical condition in which the pulmonary arterial pressure is higher than normal. It’s not the same as regular high blood pressure, or systemic hypertension, in which the blood pressure is high in the rest of the body.
If your dog was recently diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, and you want to learn more about it — keep reading.
Pulmonary hypertension in dogs
In order to properly understand this disease, and how it affects your dog, you have to understand the ways in which the blood travels through the heart.
The venous blood from the body drains into the right atrium, through the tricuspid valve, and into the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps this un-oxygenated blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery. Moving through capillaries, the blood picks up oxygen from the lungs. This blood then drains through large pulmonary veins into the left atrium, through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle where it is pumped through the aorta and back to the body.
If your canine develops pulmonary hypertension, the right side of his heart may enlarge. In more severe cases, the enlargement can be drastic. This happens to help pump any blood into the into the elevated pulmonary arterial circulation.
If the pressure on the right side of the heart rises, the enlarged side can compromise the normal filling of the left side of the heard. Therefore, the amount of blood that is pumped into our bodies will be reduced. This will cause symptoms such as: weakness, fainting, lack or energy.
Additionally, the elevation in right-sided pressure can back up into the venous return from the body causing fluid accumulate in the capillaries and the abdomen. This condition is also called right-sided congestive heart failure.
What causes Pulmonary hypertension in dogs?
Different conditions can cause pulmonary hypertension in dogs. It’s often found as a secondary disease in other respiratory conditions such as pulmonary thromboembolism.
Other possible causes of pulmonary hypertension are chronic lung disease, left heart disease; Heartworm disease, but it can also be idiopathic. In case you didn’t know, idiopathic is a word used when the underlying cause cannot be identified. Frustratingly, the underlying cause cannot be identified in most cases. That’s why it’s so difficult to treat affected dogs. However, if by any chance the cause is found, it can highly affect the overall life expectancy and life quality of a dog with PH.
Diagnosing Pulmonary hypertension in dogs
The most important test when it comes to diagnosing pulmonary hypertension in dogs is to do an echocardiogram. That’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to check the severity of the situation.
Mild cases of pulmonary hypertension only rarely show any symptoms and the dogs affected by it will most likely do pretty well.
However, it can be different for dogs with moderate pulmonary hypertension. While most still won’t show any clinical signs, they may be intolerant to exercise or collapse after some more serious physical activity.
Dogs that are affected with severe pulmonary hypertension will show very clear clinical signs. These signs include: difficulties breathing, fainting, right-sided congestive heart failure.
The tests used to identify the cause of pulmonary hypertension are lab tests such as complete biochemistry profile, blood count, urinalysis, Heartworm test. But also abdominal ultrasound if cancer or other abdominal disease is suspected.
Treating pulmonary hypertension in dogs
The most important factors in the treatment is finding the underlying cause. However, more often than not — that’s easier said than done. Additionally, many diseases that do cause PH in dogs can’t even be treated.
In most cases the treatment is focused on lowering the blood pressure in the lungs. The most effective medication for the treatment of PH is Sildenafil (Viagra). Approximately 65% of dogs respond to Sildenafil. Although their pulmonary arterial pressure does not normalize, it is lowered enough help control the clinical signs of the disease.
If your dog was recently diagnosed with PH, don’t think that it’s a death sentence. Many canines suffering from this condition don’t even show any signs at all. Only in very rare cases can it lead to losing quality of life or falling ill. However, if the right therapy is prescribed to your dog, you most likely don’t have to worry about it for too much.