High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common problem in people, but did you know that animals, particularly cats, can also be affected?
We recommend that all senior pets (8 years +) undergo an annual blood pressure check, along with a blood test and urine test. These tests are included free of charge on our Pet Health Club.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure can be simply and quickly measured in the clinic. A small cuff is placed on the patient’s leg or tail. The cuff is then inflated until the peripheral pulse is heard to stop. Slow deflation of the cuff while listening for the return of the pulse allows the systolic blood pressure to be measured.
Anxiety may lead to mild to moderately elevated blood pressure readings. This is known as the ‘white coat effect’. To help avoid this, the patient is given time to quietly relax and acclimatise to the environment at the clinic prior to the blood pressure being measured.
What about low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure is an uncommon finding in veterinary medicine. It can occur under anaesthesia or as a consequence of blood loss or certain medications. All animals undergoing general anaesthesia at our clinics have their blood pressure monitored as standard.
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is seen most commonly in older cats. It is thought that one in eight cats over the age of 9 years is affected. There are many possible causes but the most common are hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and primary hypertension.
Hypertension is less common in dogs, but can occur secondary to kidney disease, or may be associated with some hormone abnormalities or certain medications.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
Hypertension is often a “silent” illness, with few, if any noticeable signs in the early stages. This is why routine blood pressure testing is so important, in order to make an early diagnosis.
Why do we need to treat hypertension?
It is vital to diagnose and treat high blood pressure early – if left untreated the consequences can be very serious, including sudden blindness, due to retinal bleeding and detachment; brain effects such as dullness, lethargy and even seizures; hypertensive heart disease and worsening of pre-existing kidney disease.
As hypertension often occurs secondary to hyperthyroidism and/or kidney disease, a diagnosis of hypertension warrants further investigation to rule out underlying disease.
How do we treat hypertension?
If an underlying cause for the hypertension is diagnosed then this should be addressed and, where possible, corrected.
Therapy with anti-hypertensive medications will also often be initiated. The dose of these medications often requires adjustment based on repeated blood pressure readings.
There is not as strong of a link between high salt foods and hypertension as with humans, however, in most cases we would advise a diet lower in salt, such as a prescription kidney diet, or senior diet.
Once diagnosed, hypertension requires lifelong management with regular monitoring to ensure that the blood pressure stays well controlled and the serious potential complications of uncontrolled hypertension, such as blindness, are avoided.
If you have any further queries about blood pressure measurement or our Pet Health Club, one of our veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses will be happy to help.