Blood Pressure (High & Low) in Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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What is blood pressure?

Blood travels through the body via the arteries.  Blood pressure is the force in which the blood is exerted against the walls of these arteries. Think of your arteries as a pipe, for cats with high blood pressure, the blood travels through these pipes at a higher pressure than normal.

There are two readings from blood pressure tests:

Systolic – Is the pressure as the heart contracts

Diastolic – Is the pressure as the heart relaxes and fills with blood

High blood pressure is an under-diagnosed disease which can lead to significant health problems. Senior cats should have their blood pressure checked every 6 months.

What is the normal blood pressure in cats?

  • Systolic – 110 to 160mm/Hg (millimetres of mercury)
  • Diastolic – 55 to 100mm/Hg

Low blood pressure:

  • Systolic – 90 – 100mm/Hg or lower
  • Diastolic – 50mm/Hg or lower

High blood pressure:

  • Systolic – 160mm/Hg or greater
  • Diastolic – 100 – 110mm/Hg

How is blood pressure measured in cats?

An inflatable cuff is placed on the cat’s front leg or tail which is attached to a monitor.

High blood pressure in cats

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common disorder which most often affects middle-aged to senior cats. Common causes include kidney problems, Cushing’s disease or hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of hypertension can vary depending on the underlying cause. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels, leading to damage to organs, especially the eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys.

Symptoms of high blood pressure include:

  • Visual impairment, including fixed and dilated pupils, retinal haemorrhage, retinal detachment or blindness.
  • Enlargement of the heart leading to congestive heart failure and accompanying symptoms such as lethargy, breathlessness.
  • Neurological symptoms such as ataxia (wobbly gait) and seizures.

Finding the underlying cause (if there is one) and treating that is necessary to bring high blood pressure under control. Other treatments may include controlling dietary sodium, administration of vasodilators, beta-blocking drugs and diuretics.

Low blood pressure:  

Known as hypotension, there are a number of causes, which include:

  • Shock
  • Trauma – Internal or external bleeding
  • Certain heart conditions
  • Certain medications such as anesthesia

Symptoms:

  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat

The most common cause of hypotension is low blood volume. This may occur as a result of heavy/prolonged bleeding, excessive fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea, or dehydration.

The goal of treatment is to address the underlying cause.