Are senior cats feeling the pressure?

It is recommended that cats over seven years old have their blood pressure checked annually.

One in four adult humans have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), yet many of us don’t show any symptoms or know until we have our blood pressure measured at the doctors1.

Often known as ‘the silent killer’ because there are no visual early warning symptoms, cats can also suffer from hypertension and it affects one in eight cats over nine years old2.

What is feline hypertension?

Feline hypertension is a common and potentially devastating condition, with the risk increasing as cats age or if they have other conditions such as chronic kidney disease (where one in three cats suffer with hypertension) or an overactive thyroid disease (where one in four cats suffer with hypertension)3, 4, 5.  It is therefore important to regularly monitor the blood pressure of cats with these conditions to identify hypertension in the early stages.

What are the effects of hypertension?

Hypertension is damaging to the body.  The effects are particularly severe in organs such as:

  • Eyes - one of the more common symptoms seen in hypertension is sudden blindness.  This is caused by increased pressure in the delicate blood vessels of the eye which causes them to rupture, leading to bleeding into the eyes, swollen retinas and blindness if not treated.
  • Kidneys - high blood pressure may cause permanent damage to the kidneys and can increase the risk of kidney failure.  In cats with existing kidney disease, hypertension is likely to make the disease worse over time.
  • Brain and Nervous System - hypertension may cause bleeding which can result in neurological signs such as changes in a cat’s behaviour, a wobbly walk, seizures and even a coma.
  • Heart - in cats with hypertension, the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body.  Over time this leads to thickening of the heart muscle and, in severe cases, heart failure.  At this point, affected cats may become weak, struggle to breathe and appear tired.

Annual blood pressure checks

Ceva Animal Health has launched Feline Hypertension Month in May to raise awareness of feline hypertension and improve the detection and management of high blood pressure in cats.  As part of the campaign, owners are being urged to get their cat’s blood pressure checked at least once a year if he or she is over seven years of age, as recommended by International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM)6.  Routine blood pressure checks, performed by your veterinary health care team, will help detect hypertension at an early stage and prevent damage to organs such as the eyes, kidneys, heart and nervous system.  If blood pressure is found to be high, treatment is available to help reduce blood pressure.

Measuring blood pressure only takes a few minutes and is completely pain-free.  To ensure an accurate reading, it may be necessary for the clinic to admit some cats, giving them a little time to calm down before measuring their blood pressure.

For information on feline hypertension visit www.amodeus.vet or contact your local veterinary practice.

References

  1. NHS U.K. website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/
  2. Jepson et al, Evaluation of predictors of the development of azotemia in cats, JVIM, 2009;23(4):806-813.
  3. Sansom et al, Blood pressure assessment in healthy cats and cats with hypertensive retinopathy AJVR 2004;65:245-252.
  4. Syme et al, Prevalence of systolic hypertension in cats with chronic renal failure at initial evaluation, JAVMA, 2002;220:1799-1804.
  5. Huhtinen M. et al, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial of a Chewable Formulation of Amlodipine for the Treatment of Hypertension in Client-Owned Cats, JVIM, 2015;29:786-793.
  6. Taylor et al, ISFM consensus guidelines on the diagnosis and management of hypertension, JFMS, 2017;19(3):288-303.