Feline Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Feline Hypertension, high blood pressure, is a condition in which a cat’s blood pressure is elevated above normal, safe levels. Cats older than seven years of age are at an increased risk of having high blood pressure.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension

In both humans and cats, high blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. This makes the condition very dangerous since it can go unnoticed. High blood pressure has harmful effects on the following four main body systems.

When blood pressure is too high, damage to these systems occurrs, but signs of damage are not always observed right away.

  • Heart: trouble breathing, signs of stroke including dragging a limb or both hindlimbs, collapse
  • Brain: unexplained changes in behavior including increased meowing and howling
  • Kidneys: increased drinking, large urine clumps in the litter box, vomiting
  • Eyes (retinas): Sudden blindness including bumping into furniture, missing jumps, walking along walls for direction

What Causes Hypertension in Cats

High blood pressure in cats can be related to a number of factors. The most common form of feline hypertension is termed ‘idiopathic hypertension’ which means the cause cannot be identified. In some cases, cats with kidney disease will also develop high blood pressure. This can occur because the kidneys play a role in controlling blood pressure. When the kidneys are damaged, the cat’s blood pressure may increase. Cats with heart disease may also develop high blood pressure, which can result in damage to the heart. A number of other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can contribute to high blood pressure which is why routine check-ups are so important for your cat.

Testing for Feline Hypertension

High blood pressure is diagnosed in cats much the same as it is in humans. A blood pressure cuff is placed on the cat’s limb or tail, and the cuff is inflated and deflated. Blood pressure is determined using machines that measure the sound of blood flow through the blood vessels (Doppler) or the motion of the blood through the blood vessels (Oscillometry).

Treating Hypertension in Cats

There are very effective treatments for controlling high blood pressure in cats. You can give your cat a pill or medication to regulate his blood pressure one time each day. Five to seven days after starting the medication, your cat’s blood pressure will need to be checked by your veterinarian to ensure the right dose is being used. Your cat will need to receive this medication every day for the rest of his life to keep his blood pressure at the proper level.

Monitoring

All senior cats should be screened every six months at their check-ups for increases in their blood pressure. It is recommended to check all cats’ blood pressure during their regular check-ups so they can become comfortable having a cuff inflated on their limbs or tail. If your cat is on medication for high blood pressure, your veterinarian will recommend testing his blood pressure every three to six months. Blood pressure readings should be taken by your veterinarian using validated equipment. Commercial monitors purchased for human or pet at-home-use are not considered reliable and should not be used.