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Understanding Pulmonary Hypertension in Cats: Causes Symptoms and Treatments

Pulmonary Hypertension in Cats

As pet owners, we all want what’s best for our furry friends. Unfortunately, even the smallest of diseases can cause serious problems, especially with our pets’ hearts and lungs.

Pulmonary hypertension in cats is one of those diseases. Understanding what causes it, how to diagnose it, and what treatments are available is essential for the well-being of our pets.

Definition and Causes

The term pulmonary hypertension refers to high blood pressure within the arteries and capillaries in the lungs. Vasoconstriction and obstruction of these blood vessels can lead to excessive blood flow within the lungs, putting additional stress on the heart, which leads to respiratory distress syndrome.

Some common causes of pulmonary hypertension in cats include thrombosis, heartworm disease, infection, or obesity.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cats with pulmonary hypertension may show a variety of symptoms. These can include exercise intolerance, trouble breathing, blue-purple tinged skin, coughing, vomiting up blood, enlarged abdomen, weight loss, fatigue, and even fainting.

Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension in cats requires a thorough physical exam, a background medical history, and several laboratory tests such as blood chemical profiles, complete blood count, arterial blood gas tests, thoracic radiography, echocardiogram, and electrocardiogram.

Treatment and Management

One way to help manage pulmonary hypertension in cats is by using an oxygen cage, which can help the cat breathe with ease. Medication may also be prescribed to help lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

Heartworm infestations can be treated with surgery or medication prescribed by your vet. Moreover, all cats with pulmonary hypertension need to be on a low sodium diet and should be kept in a comfortable, low-stress environment.

In severe cases, prognosis may be poor, and the focus should be shifted to providing comfort rather than treatment. Pulmonary Arteries/Capillaries

Now that we have explored the basics of pulmonary hypertension in cats, let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of pulmonary arteries and capillaries.

The lungs are paired organs that are used for respiration in most animals. Their primary function is to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood.

Blood travels to the lungs through arteries and capillaries, where it is oxygenated and transported to the rest of the body.

Anatomy and Function

Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in the body, and they are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to all tissues. They connect to the veins and arteries in the circulatory system and carry deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the lungs.

The pulmonary arteries and veins are different from other arteries and veins in the body because they carry oxygenated blood to the heart instead of deoxygenated blood. The right ventricle of the heart pumps blood to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries.

There, the blood becomes oxygenated, and it returns to the left atrium of the heart through the pulmonary veins where it is then pumped to the rest of the body.

High Pulmonary Blood Pressure

When the pressure in the pulmonary arteries and capillaries becomes too high, it can cause serious problems. This can cause the right ventricle to become enlarged and the tricuspid valve, which regulates blood flow between the right atrium and right ventricle, to become weakened.

As a result, the heart’s performance decreases, and the animal may show signs of troubled breathing, exercise intolerance, blue-purple tinged skin due to pooled blood, and fainting. In severe cases, high pulmonary blood pressure can lead to congestive heart failure.


As pet owners, our priority is to ensure our pets’ health and well-being. Pulmonary hypertension in cats is a serious disease that can affect the respiratory and circulatory systems.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options are important steps in ensuring that our furry friends receive the best possible care. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of pulmonary hypertension in your pet.

Early diagnosis and intervention can lead to better outcomes.

3) Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension

While primary pulmonary hypertension is idiopathic, meaning its origin is unknown, secondary pulmonary hypertension is brought on by an underlying disease or condition. This type of pulmonary hypertension can affect cats and humans.

Definition and Comparison to Human Disorder

Secondary pulmonary hypertension refers to high blood pressure within the arteries and capillaries of the lungs that is caused by an underlying disorder or disease. This type of pulmonary hypertension is similar to the condition found in humans, where it can be caused by congenital defects, pulmonary vasculature that hasn’t developed correctly, or other extrapulmonary causes.

Extrapulmonary Causes

There are a variety of extrapulmonary causes that can contribute to secondary pulmonary hypertension in cats. Hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in the blood, is one of the common causes and is usually due to lung disorders.

However, secondary pulmonary hypertension can also be caused by underlying diseases in other parts of the body such as the adrenal glands, protein-losing nephropathy, pancreatitis, cancer, heart disease, or due to residing at high altitudes. Sometimes, the cause is as simple as not breathing enough because of obesity or other conditions.

4) Causes of Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a potentially fatal condition that can affect both cats and humans. There are several different causes of this condition, and each can be attributed to certain conditions or diseases.

Identifying the underlying cause often drives the treatment approach.

Pulmonary (Lung) Disease

Pulmonary hypertension has been linked to lung disease in both cats and humans. Lung diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and cancer can cause inflammation and scarring of lung tissue.

This can obstruct the blood vessels leading to less oxygen being supplied to the lungs and increased difficulty in breathing. Adult respiratory distress syndrome, a severe lung condition, can also cause pulmonary hypertension in cats.

Vascular (Blood Vessel) Blockage

Blockage of blood vessels in the lungs can lead to pulmonary hypertension. Thrombosis, or the formation of blood clots, is one of the most common causes of blood vessel blockage.

Clots may form within the lung’s blood vessels, preventing proper blood flow and causing pulmonary hypertension.

Heart Disease

Heart disease often leads to pulmonary hypertension in cats. Congestive heart failure can cause obstruction of blood flow and affect circulation to the lungs.

Tricuspid valve dysfunction is another heart disease that can interfere with blood flow leading to pulmonary hypertension. Heartworm disease, a parasitic infection, can also cause the condition.

Other Causes

Overactive adrenal glands, leading to too much cortisol production, increases blood pressure that can result in pulmonary hypertension. Protein-losing nephropathy, where proteins leak from the kidneys, can cause fluid buildup in the lungs leading to pulmonary hypertension.

Inflammation of the pancreas, high altitude disease, cancer, infection, and obesity are other causes of pulmonary hypertension. If an individual experiences difficulty breathing or a persistent cough for an extended period, it is recommended to consult a medical professional.


Pulmonary hypertension is a challenging condition that can affect both cats and humans. This condition can be caused by a variety of underlying diseases or other factors, making it essential to identify the specific cause to provide effective treatment.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes. If you suspect that your cat or you may have pulmonary hypertension, consult a healthcare professional.

Pulmonary hypertension is a severe disease that affects both cats and humans. There are two types of this condition: primary and secondary, with the latter resulting from an underlying disease or condition.

The causes of pulmonary hypertension can be linked to pulmonary or vascular disease, heart disease, or other factors such as high altitude, cancer, infection or obesity. Early recognition of the symptoms and diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension is critical to provide proper treatment.

Pet owners must remain vigilant for any potential red flags and should consult with their veterinarian immediately. Understanding the underlying cause of pulmonary hypertension is critical to ensure that appropriate interventions and care are provided to manage the health condition.

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