Hypertension in Cats

Overview of Feline Hypertension

Elevated blood pressure – properly called systemic arterial hypertension – is an increase in the systolic or diastolic arterial blood pressure (ABP). Blood pressure has two values: the systolic pressure, which is the high value that develops as the heart contracts and pumps blood, and the diastolic pressure, the low value that occurs as the heart relaxes and fills. For example, 120/80 means a systolic pressure = 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure = 80 mm Hg.

Below is an overview of Hypertension in Cats followed by in-depth information on the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

A systolic ABP consistently exceeding greater than 160 mm Hg in the cat is considered high. Diastolic pressure in cats should not exceed the 100 to 110 mm Hg range provided it is recorded when the pet is relaxed.

Causes of High Blood Pressure in Cats

Some cases of hypertension are idiopathic or essential, which means that they have no known cause.

A cat predisposed to kidney disease is more likely to develop hypertension.

Hypertension can affect your cat by causing injury to the following “target” organs including: brain, eyes, heart, kidneys and blood vessels. Hypertension can be suspected by symptoms and clinical examination but can only be diagnosed by repeated measurements of the ABP.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Hypertension in Cats

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize hypertension, to help deterine its cause, and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

Treatment of Hypertension in Cats

Treatments for hypertension may include one or more of the following:

Home Care and Prevention

Administer all treatments as prescribed. Schedule regular follow-up visits to ensure that treatment is successfully controlling the blood pressure. Monitor your cat’s activity, alertness, appetite and general quality of life on a regular basis.

Hypertension develops in association with diseases that, at this time, are not preventable.

In-depth Information on Hypertension in Cats

Hypertension can be difficult to diagnose in cats. The stethoscope (listening) method used to diagnose hypertension in people cannot be used in cats. A Doppler device is needed to detect blood flow or a special instrument that measures oscillations in the blood vessels must be used. Excitement can artificially raise blood pressure, just as it does in people (white coat effect).

The diagnosis of hypertension requires close attention to the technical aspects of blood pressure measurement such as selection of the appropriate cuff size and assuring uniform compression of the artery.

When there are associative clinical signs or diseases related to hypertension, a high blood pressure measurement is of great significance. In the otherwise healthy cat, diagnosis should be approached cautiously so as not to label a healthy, but perhaps excited, pet as hypertensive.

The underlying cause of hypertension must be addressed. Known causes include: chronic kidney diseases, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), hyperthyroidism, tumors of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytoma/adrenocortical tumor), drugs such as those used to treat urinary incontinence in cats and central nervous system disorders.

Hypertension can also develop from diseases of the endocrine organs. Diseases of the adrenal gland are particularly common in cats and have been associated with hypertension. One example is Cushing’s disease, which may be controlled by medication.

Some cases of hypertension are idiopathic or essential, which means they have no known cause.

Hypertension can cause serious injury to target organs including the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys and blood vessels in these and other organs. These changes can include:

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize hypertension and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended on an individual basis, including:

Treatment In-depth

Treatments for hypertension may include one or more of the following:

The principles of therapy include management of the underlying cause of hypertension and lowering of the arterial blood pressure. Treatment must be individualized for the patient and the associated problems and may include one or more of the following:

Follow-up Care for Cats with Hypertension

Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical. Administer prescribed medication(s) as directed, and be certain to alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your cat.