Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. We all know that this is a common problem in people but new recent guidelines published by the ACVIM reveal how common it is for senior cats. 1 in 8 cats over the age of 9 years old suffer from high blood pressure. This increases to 1 in 3 cats that have chronic kidney disease and 1 in 4 cats with hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland).
Left untreated, hypertension can be very damaging to the body and certain vulnerable organs.
Spontaneous bleeding can occur into the eyes and the delicate retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for vision, can become detached. This can lead to vision loss and complete blindness which can be permanent.
If bleeding occurs in to the brain or the spinal cord, this can cause a number of symptoms such as odd behaviour, a drunken gait, seizures, signs of dementia or even coma.
High blood pressure also puts an increase strain on the heart which has to work harder to carry out it’s vital functions. When the heart starts to work harder, the walls of the heart can become thicker in size which results in an enlarged heart. Sadly this can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure.
The kidneys are another vulnerable organ and having high blood pressure can increase the chances of kidney failure developing.
However there are frequently no outward signs of hypertension and so it can often go undiagnosed. Early diagnosis is key and the only way of knowing is to measure a cat's blood pressure. Measuring blood pressure is easy, quick and completely painless and is tolerated extremely well in most cats. The process is very similar to measuring BP in people. An inflatable cuff is secured around your cats forearm or tail and once this is inflated, this occludes the blood vessel. Once this is then released slowly, a reading is taken which is the systolic blood pressure. Similarly to people, the normal range of BP in cats is between 80 and 140mmhg. This is repeated approximately 5 times and then an average reading is found. If this is persistently above 160mmhg, this will be repeated another day to make sure that it is not just the ‘white coat effect’ and fear which has caused it to be elevated. If this is persistently high then your vet will likely recommend starting treatment.
Although a serious condition, if diagnosed early there is a very effective treatment available to allow cats to live a longer, healthier life. Many of the changes can also be reversed if caught early. There is a licenced product available for cats which is safe and effective with some cats even eating the flavoured tablet from your hand.
Because of the importance of identifying high blood pressure, at Zetland Vets we strive to be doing everything we can to keep our patients happy and healthy for as long as possible. This is why we are inviting all owners of cats over the age of 7 years old or those with existing hyperthyroidism, heart or kidney disease to come along and have your cat’s blood pressure measured. This will be half price until the end of July. We hope to make measuring blood pressure a part of our annual health check in all those older feline patients as it really is as important as vaccinations, flea and worm prevention. You can ring or call in to any of our practices to be booked in for this.
We look forward to seeing you and your feline friend soon,
Emma Vetterlein, MRCVS