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The Scratching Post: Under Pressure

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Most people are familiar with having their blood pressure checked as part of every visit to their doctor. Hypertension (high blood pressure) in humans is often related to a stressful lifestyle, smoking, or poor diet. But what about our feline friends?

Although cats don’t have to worry much about their stress level or smoking cigarettes, we do need to be concerned about their risk for hypertension.

Usually (but not always), hypertension in cats is associated with another systemic disease. The most common are kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. In one study, 87 percent of cats with hypertension were found to have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or both. For cats with hyperthyroidism, regulating the thyroid level (with medication, surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy) is often enough to resolve the hypertension. For cats with kidney disease or primary hypertension (no underlying cause) medication is often necessary to control the blood pressure.

Hypertension is diagnosed by measuring the blood pressure with a device similar to that used in a human doctor’s office; we use a small cuff placed on the cat’s foot or tail. We measure the systolic pressure, and in most normal cats the value is less than 160 mmHg. If your cat is especially stressed at the clinic, its normal blood pressure may be a bit higher.

It is important to treat hypertension for several reasons. First, it can make your cat feel restless or fidgety. This may manifest as increased activity or vocalizing, especially at night. More importantly, hypertension puts your cat at increased risk for developing blood clots which can lead to a stroke. In addition, increased pressure in the small blood vessels of the eye can lead to leakage of blood, causing vision changes or blindness. These changes may or may not be reversible.

The treatment for hypertension is typically a medication called amlodipine, which is a human generic tablet.  This medication is given once daily and is very affordable.

We often measure the blood pressure for cats with diagnosed kidney disease.  We may also recommend testing if your cat has been experiencing certain clinical signs at home, such as howling or being hyperactive at night. If you have noticed any of these changes, or if you have any concerns about your cat’s health, don’t hesitate to contact us.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of 

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