Hypertension (high blood pressure) is common in older cats and is usually the result of another medical problem. It’s commonly associated with medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, renal disease, diabetes and obesity. When high blood pressure is the original condition it’s called primary hypertension. What causes primary hypertension is not known. High blood pressure as a result of another medical problem is called secondary hypertension. Many cats with chronic renal failure or hyperthyroidism also have hypertension. Symptoms of hypertension will depend on the underlying primary cause. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to stroke, kidney disease, blindness (due to retinal detachment) or heart disease.
Although diseases such as chronic renal failure or hyperthyroidism are more commonly seen in older cats, a cat of any age can develop an underlying medical condition that results in secondary hypertension or can develop primary hypertension itself.
Blood Pressure Readings
Your veterinarian can check your cat’s blood pressure using a special cuff that’s non-painful, quick and very easy. The blood pressure reading should be a normal part of your older cat’s semi-annual exam. The reading only takes a couple of minutes, doesn’t require any type of sedation and is well tolerated by most cats. And speaking of older cats, it’s a good idea to switch from yearly examinations to semi-annual ones. Have your cat’s blood pressure checked at least every six months unless your veterinarian recommends a different schedule.
When your veterinarian checks your cat’s blood pressure more than one measurement will be taken. The first measurement is usually discarded to take into account the cat’s elevated anxiety level during the veterinary exam. Additional readings will allow the cat to calm down, adjust to the procedure being performed and the blood pressure to settle back to its typical rate (or at least somewhat normal rate, considering the cat is in an environment he clearly dislikes).
Treatment of Hypertension
Treatment involves addressing the primary underlying medical issue(s), appropriate medication for hypertension and dealing with any complications as a result of hypertension. Medications usually prescribed for hypertension are calcium channel blockers or beta blockers. In some cases your veterinarian may also put your cat on a sodium-restricted diet.
Ask Your Veterinarian
Learn more about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of feline hypertension by talking to your veterinarian. Hypertension is very serious so have your older cat routinely checked and pay attention to any changes in behavior, litter box habits, appetite, water intake and your cat’s physical appearance. Early diagnosis is the key to successful management. Note: this article is not intended to diagnosis your cat’s medical condition and should not be used in place of your cat’s veterinary care. Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s health or notice any changes.
Need More Information?
For information on caring for your older cat or for more help with behavior and training, refer to any of Pam’s books.