Animal models of aortic aneurysm and dissection can enhance our limited understanding of the etiology of these lethal conditions particularly because early-stage longitudinal data are scant in humans. Yet, the pathogenesis of often-studied mouse models and the potential contribution of aortic biomechanics therein remain elusive. In this work, we combined micro-CT and synchrotron-based imaging with computational biomechanics to estimate in vivo aortic strains in the abdominal aorta of angiotensin-II-infused ApoE-deficient mice, which were compared with mouse-specific aortic microstructural damage inferred from histopathology. Targeted histology showed that the 3D distribution of micro-CT contrast agent that had been injected in vivo co-localized with precursor vascular damage in the aortic wall at 3 days of hypertension, with damage predominantly near the ostia of the celiac and superior mesenteric arteries. Computations similarly revealed higher mechanical strain in branching relative to non-branching regions, thus resulting in a positive correlation between high strain and vascular damage in branching segments that included the celiac, superior mesenteric, and right renal arteries. These results suggest a mechanically driven initiation of damage at these locations, which was supported by 3D synchrotron imaging of load-induced ex vivo delaminations of angiotensin-II-infused suprarenal abdominal aortas. That is, the major intramural delamination plane in the ex vivo tested aortas was also near side branches and specifically around the celiac artery. Our findings thus support the hypothesis of an early mechanically mediated formation of microstructural defects at aortic branching sites that subsequently propagate into a macroscopic medial tear, giving rise to aortic dissection in angiotensin-II-infused mice.