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Hypertension in cats

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can occur in cats just as it does in people. If you’ve ever had a bout of high blood pressure yourself, then you know that the symptoms can be subtle but significant. Here’s what you need to know about hypertension in cats.

What causes hypertension?

Most commonly, hypertension in cats is seen as a secondary system dysfunction as a result of hyperthyroidism and chronic renal failure (CRF). According to PetMD, 65 percent of cats with CRF and 87 percent of cats with hyperthyroidism develop high blood pressure.

Senior cats are more likely to experience hypertension, as they are more likely to have CRF and hyperthyroidism, but high blood pressure has been observed in cats as young as four years old. If left untreated, the high blood pressure can damage delicate blood vessels and organs that receive a significant blood supply, such as the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, sudden blindness may be the first and most severe symptom of hypertension that pet parents notice. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the retinas to detach from the eyes.

Other symptoms include lethargy and keeping a distance, circling, seizures, and weakness. Since hypertension often occurs secondary to hyperthyroidism and CRF, some of the symptoms of these diseases are actually symptoms of high blood pressure, too.

How is it diagnosed?

If your vet suspects hypertension may be present, first they will examine the pupils for an appropriate response to light and for any bleeding, which can be seen without special equipment. Next, your vet will measure blood pressure in the same way that it would be measured in humans, with a machine that uses an inflatable cuff.

The measurement can be taken at the base of the tail or on the paw, but about 5-7 measurements will be taken. The first measurement is usually inaccurate due to the stress of the visit, colloquially known as “white coat syndrome.” The remaining measurements will be used to discard any other outliers and determine an average.

How is it treated?

Amlodipine is the most common prescription for lowering blood pressure in cats. Over time, the symptoms should subside, and you should notice your cat returning to their baseline behaviors.

Are you worried about your kitty with a special medical condition while you’re out of town? Hiring an experienced pet sitter can help put your mind at ease while you’re away. Our sitters are extra vigilant, providing updates to keep you apprised of your kitty’s health and happiness every day.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by manfredrichter on pixabay

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