High blood pressure in older cats
Pets Corner

High blood pressure in older cats

What is blood pressure?

Imagine a hose pipe connected to a tap. If the tap is turned on slightly, the hose will be soft because the pressure inside is low. If the tap is full on, or if a hose of smaller diameter is used, it will feel hard as the pressure in it is high. The same principles apply to blood in the blood vessels. Kidney disease and high blood pressure are connected because failing kidneys produce chemicals that contract the blood vessels and so raises blood pressure. In addition, they cannot eliminate excess salt, which then leads to retention of water in the circulation. This increases blood volume, which further raises the blood pressure. Blood pressure can also rise in hyperthyroidism – sometimes for no apparent reason.

What effect does high blood pressure have on cats?

It often damages the eyesight. Tiny blood vessels cross the visual layer (the retina) in the back of the eye. High pressure can rupture these and the leaked blood covers the retina, sometimes obscuring vision. In some cases, high blood pressure may also cause retinal detachment. High blood pressure may also accelerate kidney damage. The heart has to work harder to circulate the blood when blood pressure is high. This reduces its efficiency, and eventually causes heart disease and heart failure. High blood pressure may cause rupture of the tiny vessels in the brain leading to changes in the personality, seizures, collapse or other nervous symptoms.

What is the treatment for high blood pressure in cats?

Drugs may be given to relax the blood vessels, so they widen and the pressure drops. A low salt diet may help. Regular check-ups with your vet are needed for monitoring.

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