High blood pressure, or hypertension, may be easily overlooked in pets and people because it’s often clinically silent. Left untreated, however, it can cause serious health problems and death.
High blood pressure predominantly affects the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. Eye changes due to hypertension may lead to blindness. In fact, sudden blindness is often the first outward sign of untreated hypertension in cats.
High blood pressure can cause progressive injury to the kidneys, worsening kidney disease. The heart, in its attempt to compensate for high blood pressure, may become “over muscled,” eventually leading to heart failure.
High blood pressure can also weaken and rupture blood vessels in the brain, causing seizures, dementia, neurologic problems and death.
In pets, high blood pressure is often secondary to other diseases, most frequently hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, and kidney disease. Hypertension can be controlled in using some of the same medications used to treat the condition in people.
Blood Pressure Screening for Senior Pets
Just like in human medicine, we recommend blood pressure screening for your senior pets, especially cats. Screening should begin about age nine years as part of an annual geriatric exam.
Screening is quick and comfortable, and the technique is similar to the familiar process that occurs in your doctor’s office, little cuff and all. Instead of a stethoscope, however, we use an extra “listening device” called a Doppler because pets’ arteries are smaller. Please ask us more about this important screening at your pet’s next exam.