Feline hypertension or high-blood pressure is a common problem for older cats over the age of 10 years. It can be difficult to tell whether your cat has hypertension as there is usually no outward sign until organ damage has occurred; the best way to identify the illness is with a blood pressure check. Early detection, with regular blood pressure checks, is the best way to prevent this and anti-hypertensive mediation can stop further deterioration occurring.
What damage can hypertension do?
Damage to the eyes occurs in around 50% of cats with hypertension. Signs include bleeding at the back of the eyes, swelling and possible detachment of the retina, with owners commonly noticing blood within the eye, enlarged pupils and blindness or impaired vision.
Hypertension means that the heart must pump harder to counteract the higher pressures in the blood vessels. This causes thickening of the heart chambers, reducing the amount of blood they can hold, meaning that the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. It can eventually lead to heart failure. The vet might pick up an abnormal heart sounds (a gallop rhythm) and more rarely a heart murmur..
Hypertension increases the risk of kidney disease and can speed up the progression of kidney disease for cats already affected.
Nervous System and Brain
Bleeding in the brain can cause neurological symptoms such as odd behaviour, disorientation, ‘drunken’ gait, seizures or a coma. Neurological signs are seen between 15-46% of cats with hypertension.
What causes hypertension?
Hypertension can be caused by natural aging which increases blood pressure; this is referred to as ‘primary hypertension’. More commonly, however, high blood pressure is caused by an underlying disease which is termed ‘secondary hypertension’. Cats with chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are predisposed to hypertension and should have their blood pressure checked routinely.
How is it diagnosed?
Hypertension can be diagnosed through a blood pressure check, this can be done with one of our veterinary nurses and it a painless and effective way of detecting a problem. A small cuff is placed around the leg or tail and the nurse will monitor the blood pressure, just as a doctor would with a human using an arm cuff. The check only takes a few minutes and most cats tolerate the procedure well.
For healthy cats between the ages of 7-10 years old, it is recommended that blood pressure is checked, yearly, for example at your routine vaccination appointment. For cats over the age of 11, or for those who are suffering with underlying diseases, it is recommended to check blood pressure every 6 months. This allows your vet to gauge your cat’s baseline normal blood pressure and detect when your cat is at risk of developing hypertension.
What is the prognosis?
Once diagnosed with hypertension, the majority of cats will need to be on lifelong medication to control their blood pressure. It is also important to diagnose and treat potential underlying disease which are contributing to their hypertension. Once controlled, affected cats can enjoy a long period of good quality life.
If you would like to book your cat in for a blood pressure check, please call us on 01435 864422.