Can blood pressure be a problem in cats?
As techniques to measure blood pressure in pets have become available, veterinarians have found that cats can suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Chronic long-standing hypertension can cause serious and even life threatening problems. Complications of hypertension can include loss of sight, heart disease, kidney disease, seizures, disorientation, and strokes. Fortunately in cats hypertension usually responds to treatment.
We measure blood pressure using a cuff on either the legs or the tail. Most cats tolerate this well, but in some patients we occasionally have to consider the “white coat syndrome” that produces false high results. As a result in some cats, we may have to take repeated readings over a day, while in others, we may get readings during a scheduled examination.
In cats high blood pressure usually develops secondary to another disease that the patient already has. This is known as secondary hypertension in contrast to primary hypertension that develops without a known cause. Treating secondary high blood pressure often involves therapy for the disease that produced the elevated blood pressure.
The two most common causes of hypertension are over active thyroid, (hyperthyroidism) and kidney disease. When the patient is hyperthyroid, we administer medicine to lower blood thyroid hormone, and in some of the patients the blood pressure returns to normal. When the blood pressure doesn’t return to normal, we give medicine to lower blood pressure.
Chronic kidney disease in cats is treatable but cannot be cured. As a result blood pressure usually doesn’t drop and therapy must be started to lower blood pressure. It’s important to lower blood pressure to prevent further kidney damage.
Signs of hypertension may be subtle but can include:
- Blindness as the result of retinal detachment
- Heart failure causing difficulty breathing
- Kidney disease resulting increased water consumption and increased urination, loss of appetite or vomiting
- Behavioral changes including anxiety, disorientation, seizures, and strokes
Remember hypertension can cause heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, seizures, or strokes, but lowering blood pressure can reduce the risk of developing these problems. Patients with signs suggestive of hypertension should have their blood pressure measured. Lowering blood is usually relatively easy and inexpensive.