Hypertension, aka high blood pressure, in cats is a very serious and common health concern. Like in people, it often goes undetected and untreated until serious health complications arise. Hypertension can be a secondary consequence of underlying disease, the most common of which is heart disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, all of which are potential killers in their own right. However, hypertension often is a primary disease in and of itself in cats that can lead to either sudden or gradual deterioration of health.
For this reason, in my practice, for cats of all ages that come in for sick visits and any cats 8 years or older that come in for well visits, we routinely measure blood pressure. This usually done without being too much of a nuisance to the feline patient and fairly quickly using a device called the PET MAP.
Whenever hypertension is discovered in a feline patient, I generally recommend routine bloodwork to check if there is any underlying disease that is predisposing the patient to hypertension. If disease is discovered, then I treat the primary disease while monitoring the blood pressure to see any further management of hypertension is necessary.
In cases where no underlying disease is found, I will usually try the patient for one month on a low sodium diet. If the blood pressure remains high, then I initiate treatment with a safe and inexpensive calcium channel blocker called amlodipine orally once daily.
The adverse health effects of hypertension in cats cannot be over stated. First and foremost, hypertension leaves the feline body very prone to clots. If these clots form in major structures such as the lungs, they can be deadly. A common occurrence of clot formation in cats is an often fatal condition known as Saddle Thrombus, where a clot lodges at the split of the arteries that supply blood to the rear limbs that cuts off blood supply to both rear legs.
While chronic kidney disease commonly leads to hypertension in cats, primary hypertension commonly leads to chronic kidney disease. Hypertension also stresses the cardiovascular system and can lead to chronic disease of the heart muscle and/or heart valves.
Yearly well visits where blood pressure is a routine part of the physical examination is a great way to detect hypertension early where it can be managed before it causes irreparable damage to the body, while possibly helping us to detect other serious chronic disease. As previously stated, I advise blood pressure as a routine component of the yearly well visit for call cats 8 years or older.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of subjects and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.