Hypertension can have a devastating impact on many body systems, including the eyes, kidney, heart and central nervous system. Sometimes the first clues that a cat has hypertension come from signs noticed by the owner, such as dilated pupils due to blindness, head tilt, loss of balance, disorientation, and even seizures. Signs of hypertension may also be more subtle such as vocalization, poor appetite and lethargy.

Blood pressure is measured in cats by the same method that is used for humans. There are challenges inherent in the small size of the patient, so human pediatric blood pressure (BP) cuffs are used for cats. The BP readings can be taken with the cuff placed on a front leg, or at the base of the tail. Usually 5 to 7 readings are taken, the highest and lowest results are discarded, and the rest are averaged. Anxious, fearful or excitable cats will not have the same BP readings as they would at home in calmer surroundings. The "white coat effect'' can increase the readings by 17 points or more.

When a cat is diagnosed with hypertension, thorough blood work will be done in an effort to identify the cause. With medication, feline hypertension is frequently controllable and even reversible, especially when the underlying disease is successfully treated. Treatment of hypertension will protect cats against serious adverse effects and improve quality of life.

Consult your veterinarian to see if your cat may be at risk.