Just like people, cats can suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure. If your cat is diagnosed with hypertension, your vet might prescribe the same type of pills you'd take to get your blood pressure down. Of course, while the same medications are used, they're not the same dosage.
Often called the silent killer because the victims don't feel the effects, high blood pressure is dangerous by itself and also damages other organs. Normally, feline blood pressure is higher than that in humans. While normal human blood pressure is 120/80, meaning 120 millimeters of mercury - the measurement term - during the heart beat, or systolic, phase, and 80 during the heart rest, or diastolic phase. Ideally, a cat's systolic pressure is below 150, according to Manhattan Cat Specialists. Your vet measures your cat's blood pressure with a cat-sized blood pressure cuff, similar to the one your doctor uses. It can be used on the legs or the base of the tail. If your cat's reading is high, your vet performs further tests to find out why.
Common causes of high blood pressure in felines include kidney failure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and Cushing's disease. Less common causes include polycythemia, or a high red blood cell count, as well as glomerular disease, in which protein is lost in urine, and acromegaly, an excess of growth hormone. In people, hypertension usually is a situation without an underlying disease, but that's unusual in cats. It does happen, so in those cases the hypertension is considered a primary disease, not secondary to another ailment. Depending on the diagnosis, treatment of the disease might return blood pressure to normal. Otherwise, your vet prescribes blood pressure medication.
Amlodipine, marketed under the brand name Norvasc, is one of the most common human high blood pressure medications used for treating felines. Because it has few side effects and generally is well-tolerated, it's considered the drug of choice for treating feline hypertension. As a vasospecific calcium-channel blocker, Amlodipine works by keeping calcium from entering your cat's muscle cells, which lets blood vessels relax, lowering blood pressure. As with any blood pressure medication, you should monitor Fluffy at home with a feline blood pressure kit and bring him to the vet for regular check-ups.
Beside amlodipine and other calcium-channel blockers, your vet might prescribe diuretics to increase fluid removal from the body, which also reduces the amount of blood going through the heart. Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce heart stimulation. After calcium-channel blockers, ACE inhibitors are the most commonly used hypertension medications in cats. Your vet makes a decision regarding medication based on your cat's overall health and the underlying cause of hypertension. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Hypertension
- VetInfo: Feline Hypertension Treatment with Norvasc
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: High Blood Pressure
- Veterinary Partner: High Blood Pressure (Systemic Hypertension) in our Pets
- Newman Veterinary Medical Services: Hypertension in Dogs and Cats
- Cat Hospital of Chicago: Hypertension in Cats
- Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images