Just like humans, cats can suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension) and this can be damaging for their eyes, kidneys, heart and nervous system.
What causes hypertension?
Hypertension can either be primary (with no known cause) or secondary, where it is caused by an underlying disease. The latter is far more common in cats accounting for around 80% of cases of hypertension, with the most likely causes being kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. Both of these are quite frequently seen in middle-aged to older cats, and therefore cats diagnosed with these conditions should have their blood pressure checked to make sure it’s not higher than it should be.
What are the symptoms?
The problem with hypertension is that it can cause damage to various organs around the body – the most vulnerable being the eyes, kidneys, heart and the brain. Hypertension can cause problems that appear to come on suddenly, and symptoms can include:
- Blindness (dilated pupils)
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How is hypertension diagnosed?
Your cat’s blood pressure can be measured using a cuff around their leg or tail – the vet will need to take several measurements to try and minimise the effect of stress (white coat effect). It isn’t painful for your cat but can just feel a bit odd. The vet will also likely look in your cat’s eyes – using a device to look at the retinas to check for any evidence of bleeds or retinal detachment, both of which can be caused by hypertension and result in blindness.
If the vet diagnoses hypertension then they will suggest checking for common underlying causes such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism – these are normally diagnosed based on blood and urine tests.
Treatment involves medication to manage and reduce the high blood pressure, as well as treatment or management of the underlying cause.
What is the prognosis?
Hypertension can normally be well controlled in cats, and the risk of organ damage therefore minimised. The prognosis is more likely to depend on the underlying cause and its severity.