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High Blood Pressure in Cats & What To Do About It

Why You Should Be on the Lookout for Hypertension in Your Cat

By Sam Bourne. October 16, 2013 | See Comments

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a complication most of us are familiar with, but did you know that it can affect cats as well? While it may present itself differently than in humans, hypertension is just as serious to a cat’s well being. Learn the symptoms and treatments of high blood pressure in cats.

High blood pressure is not known as “the silent killer” for nothing -- it is difficult to detect and can be very serious. Even your kitty, who might seem like the most relaxed, laid back creature on earth, can be affected. Also known as hypertension, this ailment can lead to, and/or stem from, a plethora of different conditions in cats.

Unlike in people, hypertension in cats is not something that is routinely tested for at a veterinary visit. While it may not warrant the same level of concern as it does in people, it is certainly something to be mindful of, and something worth talking to your vet about.

What is High Blood Pressure in Cats?

We’ve all had the inflatable cuff wrapped around our arm at the doctor's office -- this is what measures blood pressure in humans. Blood pressure is measured as a ratio (i.e., 120/80) which is the systolic pressure, or the pressure in the vein during a heartbeat, over the diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in the vein when the heart is at rest. If those numbers are too high, your cat has high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the technical term for when the blood coursing through the body is being pushed against the walls of the veins too hard, which can lead to a number of different complications if it persists. Unlike in people, hypertension in cats is typically symptomatic of something else, like chronic kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.

High blood pressure in cats also manifests itself differently than it does in people, who are generally primarily at risk of a stroke or a heart attack. Cats with hypertension generally have complications with their vision, causing swelling and retinal detachment, or the kidneys, making it more difficult for the kidney to effectively filter out waste. Hypertension can also affect cats’ hearts, and in severe cases of hypertension, can result in congestive heart failure.

How To Tell If Your Cat Has Hypertension

Since hypertension in cats typically comes hand in hand with another condition, detecting the signs can be slightly easier than it is in people. High blood pressure has very few symptoms in and of itself, but the conditions that might be causing the high blood pressure have visible symptoms of their own which can help tip you off to your cat’s situation. If your cat has any of the following, have them tested for high blood pressure

Also, if you notice that you cat has any of the following symptoms, consider a vet visit, as these could be signs of hypertension.

  • Blurred vision
  • Acting depressed
  • Lethargy

Older cats should have their blood pressure taken at least once a year, but since it is generally a result of another condition, testing does not have the same level of importance as it does with people, who are checked every year, regardless of age. Also, it is substantially more challenging to check your cat’s blood pressure, so if the test can be breezed past, it frequently is. If you have reason to think your cat is at risk, mention it to your vet and make sure they check.

How You Can Help Your Hypertensive Cat

Since hypertension in cats is typically symptomatic of something else, you are going to have to treat the underlying condition, whether it be hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease. If, however, the treatment of the primary condition does not result in a lowering of your cat's high blood pressure, you are probably going to have to start them on some medication to help reduce their heightened blood pressure, such as an ACE-inhibitor like Enacard (enalapril), which works as a vasodilator. These medications make it easier for blood vessels to do their job, especially when those blood vessels are jammed up.

If ACE-inhibitors are not working, a calcium channel blocker, such as amlodipine besylate, might be your next stop, helping to control the amount of calcium that could be clogging up your cat's veins. Other drugs that might be able to help your cat deal with their high blood pressure are diuretics, which have a secondary function as a vasodilator.

Aside from medications, there are studies that show putting your cat on a low sodium diet can help reduce their blood pressure. While not sufficient as the only method to treat high blood pressure as, a dietary change is a good idea when trying to manage any chronic condition.

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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