Cat Care: Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, causes excess pressure on your cat's arteries, which can damage your cat's organs and nervous system if the condition isn't treated. It's usually not possible to identify why a cat has developed high blood pressure, but it tends to only affect adult cats and there may be a genetic link in some cats that develop the condition. Cats with kidney or thyroid problems also seem to be at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, and a diet high in sodium can cause blood pressure to increase over time. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for high blood pressure in cats:


Initially, there may be no obvious symptoms your cat has high blood pressure, but untreated high blood pressure can cause nosebleeds, disorientation, dilated pupils and muscle weakness in cats. Your cat will seem generally unwell and may become lethargic and start having seizures. Cats with high blood pressure can also develop heart murmurs, protein in the urine and swollen kidneys, which your vet will check for when they examine your cat.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Your vet will diagnose high blood pressure using a blood pressure monitoring cuff around their front leg. A high reading will prompt your vet to check for damage to your cat's organs and try and establish if there is an underlying cause, such as kidney disease. So, your vet may take a sample of your cat's blood to check for raised inflammatory markers, which can be indicative of organ damage, and a urine sample will be checked for the presence of protein. Diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan, will allow your vet to check your cat's heart, kidneys and liver, and they will also examine your cat's eyes to rule out damage to their sight from high blood pressure. If your cat has had any seizures, a CT scan or MRI scan of their brain will be carried out to rule out other potential causes, such as a tumour.

After diagnosis, your vet will prescribe medication to control your cat's blood pressure, such as a beta-blocker or calcium channel blocker, which will improve their symptoms. You may also be advised to put your cat on a low sodium diet, and you'll be given information on suitable cat food brands. If any underlying damage has been detected, your vet will formulate a treatment plan to address the identified problem. For example, if your cat has kidney disease, they may require dialysis or medication to increase their urine output, which can help flush toxins out of their kidneys.  Your vet will want to check your cat's blood pressure regularly to ensure their current treatment plan is keeping it within the normal range.

If you suspect your cat could have high blood pressure, or if you'd simply like to have their blood pressure checked as a precautionary measure, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.