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Pulmonary Hypertension

A diagnosis of heart disease in your dog can be frightening; especially if you also are told that “pulmonary hypertension” (PH) is present as well. However, many dogs live long, normal lives with PH if it remains mild.

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a term used to describe pathologically elevated pulmonary arterial pressure (i.e. high blood pressure in the lung blood vessels). This is a separate issue entirely from systemic hypertension (high blood pressure).  PH can be caused by heartworm disease, chronic lung disease, or chronic left heart disease. It can also be secondary to any number of diseases that cause pulmonary thromboembolism. Significant PH can cause the right side of the heart to become enlarged. If the pressure on the right side is severely elevated, it can cause a back up of blood and result in fluid accumulation, either in the abdomen (ascites) and/or in the space around the lungs (pleural effusion).

Symptoms of PH include weakness, exercise intolerance, rapid and shallow breathing, weakness, fainting/collapsing, respiratory distress, or abdominal distension. Coughing may also be present if PH is secondary to a primary lung or airway disease. An echocardiogram is typically performed to confirm PH and assess its severity. Thoracic radiographs and lab work are typically performed as well to try to identify the underlying cause of the PH.

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