Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a fairly common but potentially severe problem for older cats. Over the past few years the importance of monitoring blood pressure in older cats has been recognised and monitoring equipment is now readily available in most veterinary practices.
What is Blood Pressure and Hypertension?
The blood pressure is the force that is exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels. A certain amount of pressure is needed to enable the heart to effectively pump blood around the body in order to deliver oxygen and energy to the various organs, muscles and tissues. When an animal (or person) becomes hypertensive, the blood is pumped with greater force than normal which puts extra strain on the vessels, arteries and heart.
What Causes Hypertension?
Hypertension in cats may be caused by (or be a side effect of) another disease, illness or problem such as Kidney disease, Heart Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes and Obesity. However, many older cats can develop hypertension without having other illnesses or disease, or even showing any other clinical signs. Sadly if it is not detected early on and is left untreated, it can cause serious and sometimes sudden consequences, including the following illnesses and symptoms
Kidney problems Heart problems Neurological (Brain) problems such as seizures or disorientation Weight loss Poor appetite Increased thirst Increased urination Dilated pupils (large pupils that do not get smaller in the light) Blood spots/bleeding in the eyes Blindness Respiratory problems
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured in cats using the same method that is used for humans.
In humans, two values are taken into account, the higher one being the blood pressure in the arteries that is recorded when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and the lower value, when the heart rests between beats (diastolic pressure). These two values are recorded one above the other, separated by a slash mark; Normal human blood pressure is around 120/70-80 mmHg (which stands for millimetres of mercury). With cats, we tend just focus on the systolic blood pressure reading which is typically higher than humans, at around 120 to 170 mmHg.