According to the British Heart Foundation, in the region of five million adults in the United Kingdom have undiagnosed high blood pressure, a condition with potentially serious consequences. Well, you may be surprised to know that cats get high blood pressure too – while the underlying cause of the condition is somewhat different, there are lots of similarities too. Read on to find out more!
What are the signs of high blood pressure in cats?
Just as in people, the signs of high blood pressure in cats are not always obvious. Where there are visible signs of high blood pressure, the condition has often been present for some time and these signs are usually associated with damage to organs like the eyes, brain, kidneys and heart. Worryingly, many cats with high blood pressure present with sudden onset blindness, which may be irreversible.
People with high blood pressure may report:
- Blurred vision
- Nose bleeds
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
While human patients can tell their doctor about signs such as headaches, our feline friends cannot verbalise how they are feeling. Would you know if your cat had a headache? Hypertensive headaches are often described as severe by human patients, which means that it is particularly important to be proactive when it comes to our pets, both for welfare reasons and to pick up signs before irreversible damage is done. If only they could talk…
What are the signs of aging in cats?
- Sleeping more
- Behavioural changes
- Difficulty negotiating the stairs
Get older cats that are ‘slowing down’ checked by a vet! It may not ‘just’ be old age!
Did you know that some of the common signs of aging in cats can also be signs of high blood pressure? So, if your senior feline is spending time curled up in a favourite spot, snoozing the days away, can you be sure that they are simply enjoying a leisurely pace of life, or are they withdrawn and lethargic because they are suffering with the effects of hypertension?
The simple answer is that without measuring a cat’s blood pressure, there is no way of knowing. If your cat seems to be ‘slowing down’, or showing any other signs of aging, it is very important to arrange a check-up with your vet without delay.
What causes high blood pressure in cats?
High blood pressure in cats normally occurs secondary to another underlying disease, so is termed secondary hypertension. The most commonly implicated conditions are chronic kidney disease and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Any cat with these conditions should have their blood pressure checked. In addition, any cat diagnosed with high blood pressure should also be screened for underlying health issues to ensure there is not any yet undiagnosed health conditions causing their high blood pressure.
19% to 65% of cats with CKD have been found to be hypertensive1
In people, although secondary hypertension does occur, unhealthy lifestyle choices are usually the main culprit when to comes to high blood pressure.
How to check a cat’s blood pressure
The only way to check a cat’s blood pressure, and to know if it is high, is for a vet to measure it. A soft ‘cuff’ is used just as if a person was having their blood pressure taken. Blood pressure measurements in cats are quick and painless procedures that should be a routine part of preventative health care for senior felines.
Did you know? Vets can use a cat’s leg or tail to measure blood pressure.
The NHS recommend that all people over the age of forty have blood pressure checks and this should be at least on an annual basis for those that fall into a high risk category.
The ISFM (International Society of Feline Medicine) has set out equivalent recommendations for cats:
- Healthy senior cats (7-10 years of age): every 12 months
- Healthy geriatric cats (11+ years of age): every 6-12 months
- Cats with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or other diseases that increase the risk of hypertension: at the time of diagnosis, and then every 3-6 months
How to treat high blood pressure in cats
Once a diagnosis has been made, your vet will put a treatment plan into place. This will include measures to address any underlying disease that is present, as well as prescribing blood pressure medication. Most cats will need blood pressure medication for the rest of their lives, but this will soon become part of your cat’s daily routine.
What do you need to know about cat high blood pressure?
Widespread routine monitoring of cat blood pressure enables earlier diagnosis, so that affected cats can be identified, and treatment started before there is irreversible damage to their internal organs.
- Taylor SS, Sparkes AH, Briscoe K, et al. ISFM Consensus Guidelines on the Diagnosis and Management of Hypertension in Cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2017;19(3):288-303