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Dear Christopher Cat

I know people should have their blood pressure checked periodically. What about cats and dogs?

Christopher Responds

Mom has never checked my blood pressure, but that’s probably because I am a very healthy cat.

Healthy cats and dogs rarely develop high blood pressure, called hypertension, so veterinarians seldom check their blood pressure.

When cats and dogs do have hypertension, it is almost always secondary to some other disease.

On the other hand, people can have high blood pressure yet be otherwise healthy. It’s called primary, or essential, hypertension.

Some veterinarians consider it prudent to check blood pressure in pets with diseases that may cause hypertension, or when clinical signs, like bleeding inside the eye, suggest elevated blood pressure.

The most common disease associated with hypertension is kidney dysfunction, especially chronic renal failure. Half the cats and dogs with chronic renal failure develop hypertension secondary to the kidney problem.

Five to 10 percent of cats with hyperthyroidism develop high blood pressure secondary to their overactive thyroid glands.

Similarly, diabetic dogs and those with overactive adrenal glands, a disorder called hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease, occasionally develop secondary hypertension.

Regardless of whether pets are healthy or have one of these diseases, measuring their blood pressure poses challenges. One is accuracy, because the equipment wasn’t designed for our many sizes and shapes.

Another is that when we are nervous, our blood pressure goes up, a problem we share with many humans.

Nevertheless, when pets with the diseases I mentioned have consistently high measurements, it’s time to treat them.

Untreated hypertension – whether in cats, dogs or humans – damages the kidneys, eyes, brain, heart and blood vessels.

In summary, if your pets are healthy, they don’t need blood pressure screening. But if your pet has one of the diseases I mentioned, ask your veterinarian whether checking blood pressure is advisable.

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