Hypertension in Cats
High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is a common condition in cats with a recent study finding almost a quarter of cats aged 9 and over affected. Unlike in humans, where primary hypertension is most common (where there is no underlying disease), cats are more likely to have secondary hypertension, where the high blood pressure is the result of another disease such as chronic kidney disease or an over-active thyroid gland.
It is important to recognise and treat hypertension as it can have severe effects on many vital organs:
Bleeding into the eyes and retinal swelling and detachment can cause reduced vision or even complete blindness, which is usually permanent. The eye changes can usually only be seen by a vet looking at the eye with an ophthalmoscope, although occasionally blood can be seen in the front chamber of the eye which is visible without specialist equipment.
Bleeding on the brain can cause a variety of neurological symptoms, including wobbliness, seizures, odd behaviour and signs of dementia, and even coma.
When there is high blood pressure the heart has to work harder to pump blood, and the heart muscle can become thickened. This affects the way the heart works and can lead to heart failure, which can sometimes be seen as breathlessness and lethargy.
High blood pressure damages the kidneys and may lead to renal failure. In cats that already have kidney disease, hypertension causes further deterioration of the kidney function.
There are sometimes symptoms related to the underlying disease process, such as drinking more, weight loss and reduced appetite in cats with kidney disease, or weight loss despite an increased appetite in cats with an overactive thyroid. Once hypertension is treated, many cats that had become a bit lethargic will seem much happier. In humans, hypertension can cause severe headaches, and it is possible that cats could be suffering the same.
Unfortunately, symptoms are often not seen until the condition is advanced, and it may not be picked up until there is sudden irreversible blindness. It is important to recognise hypertension early, before irreversible damage is done.
Blood pressure can be measured in a similar manner to people, it is pain-free and most cats tolerate this well. An inflatable cuff is placed around a front leg or the tail, and gently inflated then released, whilst listening for the pulse further down the leg with a machine called a doppler. The measurement obtained is interpreted in light of how stressed the cat appeared to be whilst taking the blood pressure, and factors such as other diseases and whether there is any sign of damage to the eyes, are taken into account when deciding if treatment is required.
Treatment consists of identifying and addressing any underlying condition, and medication in tablet or liquid form to reduce the blood pressure. Regular check ups are then needed to ensure that the condition is being managed adequately.
We are currently offering a FREE blood pressure check
To book please telephone the surgery: Worthing: 01903 200187 / Goring: 01903 242236