High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is the clinical term for high blood pressure. It is recognised as a relatively common problem in older cats, and is often found in conjunction with other conditions such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. In some studies over 60% of cats with kidney disease and over 20% of cats with hyperthyroidism were found to have hypertension.
If left untreated, hypertension can lead to damage to certain organs - the kidneys, brain, eyes and heart are the most vulnerable, and are also referred to as target organs or sometimes end organs. Signs of hypertension are normally related to damage to these organs, with the main clinical signs including reduced vision or blindness, a change in behaviour, depression, breathlessness, lethargy and increased drinking and urination.
Diagnosis of hypertension is made by measuring the blood pressure using an inflatable cuff and a tiny ultrasound probe which we use to listen to the pulse. The cuff is wrapped round one of the front legs or the tail, depending on what your cat is most comfortable with. The back of the eye may also be examined, as it is common to find changes here in cats with hypertension. These tests are painless and most cats tolerate them well.
There is a medical treatment for hypertension, which involves daily medication but is very safe and usually very effective. As hypertension is most commonly seen associated with other diseases, it is important these are also investigated and treated.
We recommend at cats over 11 years old have their blood pressure measured regularly to prevent damage from happening.
At the Oxford Cat Clinic we recommend that all cats have a 6 monthly health check with one of our veterinary nurses between vaccinations, and blood pressure measurement is offered to older cats at this time.