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High Blood Pressure in Cats and Dogs

by Dr. Rachel Addleman, DVM, DiplABVP, CVA
Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr. Addleman has advanced training and Board Certification in feline medicine. She practices in Houston, Texas and can be found at AnimalFixer.com

High blood pressure in cats and dogs  Dr. Rachel Addleman Houston Animal Acupuncture & HerbsMy father and his cat Snoop are on the same medication for high blood pressure. High stress can be a risk factor for high blood pressure in people, as is smoking and drinking. My father definitely has more stress than the cat does, but neither smoke or drink! So, what causes high blood pressure in dogs and cats?

In dogs and cats, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is almost always recognized as a complication of other diseases. In humans, hypertension is often diagnosed as a primary problem – meaning, no underlying disease is found.

A common cause of high blood pressure in animals is kidney disease. The complication of hypertension develops in over half of cats with kidney disease and in most dogs with kidney disease. As many cats develop kidney disease as they age, monitoring for high blood pressure is important.

A diet lower in protein is recommended for animals with kidney disease. A lower protein diet has been shown to slow the progression of kidney disease. Diets made for kidney disease are often lower in salt, but salt restriction is controversial as it does not appear to help control high blood pressure in animals.

Snoop and my father could stand to lose a pound or two. Neither is obese. But in any case, in dogs and cats there is no direct connection of obesity to high blood pressure. Obesity can however lead to diabetes. Diabetes is a risk factor for high blood pressure in both people and dogs. Diabetes itself is not a risk factor for high blood pressure in cats.

Other diseases that lead to high blood pressure include Cushing’s disease in dogs, and in cats an elevated thyroid level, or hyperthyroidism. Low thyroid level in dogs, known as hypothyroidism, does not cause hypertension.

High blood pressure can cause sudden blindness, nose bleeds, or blood clots that could lodge anywhere, including the brain. High blood pressure may cause changes in personality. In cats, an increase in meowing, especially at night, may be a sign of high blood pressure. People with hypertension sometimes complain of early morning headaches, but this is a difficult symptom to diagnose in an animal!

A blood pressure measurement is taken similarly to a human, by placing an inflatable cuff on the leg or the tail. I like to allow an animal to relax and calm down before blood pressure is taken. I always consider how stressed an animal is when interpreting a blood pressure measurement.

Your pet should have an examination by your veterinarian every year because early disease detection can increase the length and quality of life. A blood test and urine test are recommended at least yearly by age 7 in dogs and by age 10 in cats. High blood pressure is almost always a complication of another disease, so your veterinarian may wait to recommend a blood pressure measurement until your pet is diagnosed with an illness. In patients with a high risk, a blood pressure measurement should be taken routinely.