The things that cause high blood pressure or, hypertension, in cats may be a little different than the most common causes in people. In cats it is most commonly associated with kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. And, both of these diseases are very common in older cats. There are some other, rare, causes of hypertension in cats and commonly there is no discernible cause. This is called idiopathic hypertension.
We often have to rule out hypertension from stress while at the veterinary hospital. To keep things simple, just think of cats as having the same blood pressure as people – 120/80 would be the goal, but I have certainly seen stressed cats with values as high as 170/90.
High blood pressure is dangerous to cats for the same reasons it is dangerous to people. It can cause damage to the kidneys, the eyes, the brain and the cardiovascular system.
So, how do we measure blood pressure in animals? This is not nearly as easy as it is in people and the machines that do the measuring are much more expensive than the cuff and stethoscope that your doctor or nurse may use for you. This is why there is often a significant charge for the process of taking blood pressure in a pet.
In order to help reduce the stress effect on blood pressure, it is a good idea for you to stay with your pet during his or her blood pressure reading. Sometimes it is easiest to take the blood pressure when you first arrive at the veterinary hospital, before your pet gets stressed and other times it helps to let the cat walk around the exam room and “chill-out” for up to 10 minutes before the reading is taken.
So, now that you know your cat has hypertension, what next? Your veterinarian will want to try to figure out if there is an underlying cause by running blood tests. Meanwhile she may start your cat on a medication. After starting or changing the dose of medication, blood pressure should be reassessed in 5-7 days. Once the dose is established the pressures should be checked at least four times a year.