High blood pressure, a result of pressure in the blood vessels being unusually elevated, can be extremely dangerous if the symptoms go undetected.
If a cat’s blood pressure remains higher than normal for a sustained period of time it can begin to significantly affect their heart, kidneys, nervous system and eyesight; sometimes causing lasting damage.
It is more commonly found in older cats, or ones struggling with obesity, although it can be diagnosed in felines of any age.
Spotting the signs early is crucial in order to prevent a serious threat to health.
This article will discuss what signs you need to look out for, and how a cat’s diet can play a big role in regulating their blood pressure.
Are hypertension and high blood pressure the same thing?
Hypertension is the medical name for high blood pressure.
If no underlying cause can be found for elevated blood pressure, that is called primary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension in cats is a far more common diagnosis, indicating an underlying disease. The most common causes here are kidney disease and obesity.
Blood pressure is measured in cats the same way it is in humans. A vet will place an inflatable cuff device on their paw or tail.
Two numbers are then presented as a fraction. The top one (systolic) measures pressure inside the arteries when the heart is pumping; the bottom one (diastolic) is pressure when the heart is resting between beats.
Normal human blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. In cats, these numbers tend to be higher.
Signs to look out for
An early diagnosis is vital when dealing with high blood pressure in cats.
The only way to know your cat’s blood pressure is elevated is to have their blood pressure checked by a vet.
However, these are the signs you should be looking out for:
- A frequent bleeding nose. If your cat begins bleeding from their nose you need to closely monitor the situation. A one-off nose bleed may just be an isolated incident and no cause for alarm. However, if the bleeds become more frequent, you will need to contact your vet. There are many causes of a bloody nose in cats including injury, upper respiratory infection and blood clotting, Elevated blood pressure brought on kidney disease is another. A full physical examination should get to the root cause. A cold compress to their face will help slow the bleeding.
- Cats are extremely graceful creatures, so if you see one bumping into furniture, falling over often or even struggling to stand, you’ll know something isn’t quite right. High blood pressure can lead to disorientation in felines. You may notice them circling to one side. While we are able to feel when our balance is off or when we become a bit lightheaded, dizzy spells in cats cat be difficult to spot. Dizziness may also be a sign that your cat is suffering from low blood pressure.
- Problems with vision are one of the most common symptoms associated with hypertension in cats. If untreated it can eventually lead to blindness due to high blood pressure in the eye causing retinal detachment. Sudden blindness is usually obvious to spot, but gradual sight loss needs a keener eye. Check for bleeding from the eyes, swelling or changes in color and appearance. If your cat has suddenly started bumping into objects, this could also be sign they are struggling with their eyesight. Some causes of blindness are reversible, so it’s important to contact your vet as soon as possible.
- Low energy. Elevated blood pressure brought on by heart or kidney issues can leave cats feeling drained. While felines do enjoy plenty of sleep, once they’re up and about, they do tend to expend quite a bit of energy. Some cats with hypertension may become more withdrawn, lethargic or even appear depressed. Once treatment is started, and blood pressure begins to drop, you should notice your cat’s activity levels increase. It is worth noting that low blood pressure can also result in diminishing energy levels.
- Trouble breathing. Shortness of breath can be a telltale sign of hypertension in cats. This could be exhibited through panting, fast breathing or difficulty breathing. A cat that is struggling to breathe will inevitably end up stressed and anxious, possibly resulting in a further rise in blood pressure. Do your best to calm them down. Keep them indoors, comfortable and cool. Anytime your cat is encountering breathing difficulties you should immediately contact your vet.
- High blood pressure is often linked to seizures in cats. Seizures can take a number of forms including convulsions, leg paddling, loss of consciousness, tremors, incessant meowing or crying and loss of urinary or bowel control. They can be brief and some owners may not even notice them. Don’t touch your cat while they’re experiencing a seizure, only if there’s a chance they could sustain an injury. Seizures are not generally considered medical emergencies. If it stops after one or two minutes, book an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. If the seizures are happening back-to-back, you should take them to the vet immediately.
- A blatant change in demeanor or overall behavior. Your cat may not exhibit any of the physical symptoms related to high blood pressure until the condition is too severe. That’s why we need to make sure we monitor their general behavior closely. Have they suddenly become more aggressive? Are they refusing food? Have you noticed increased vocalization? As blood pressure rises, a cat’s heart rate is likely to follow suit. This may lead to them acting abnormally, so we need to be alert to any changes.
How diet plays a part
With the majority of hypertension cases in cats down to an underlying condition, such as kidney failure or heart disease, we know that a healthy body is vital in the fight against it.
When we talk about the overall physical and mental wellbeing of our cats, diet is always part of the conversation.
Changes in a cat’s diet can actually lower blood pressure, and prevent them from suffering the serious health consequences associated with hypertension.
So what does a healthy cat diet look like?
It’s one that’s complete and balanced, brimming with nutrients and full of goodness.
Reveal recipes are made with limited ingredients, which means you know exactly what your cat is getting.
No fillers, artificial flavors, preservatives or anything else that could trigger allergies or intolerances.
Our grain-free cat foods contain high-quality, freshly sourced proteins and carbohydrates, with a body-boosting blend of vitamins and minerals. Simple, but extremely effective when fed with a complete dry cat food for a balanced diet.
The nourishing ingredients are building blocks to a stronger immune system, providing cats with the fuel they need to fight off illness. And they’re mouth-wateringly tasty, too.
A cat eating a healthy diet is far more likely to benefit from overall gut health, wellbeing and vitality.
This is crucial for maintaining normal blood pressure.
Whenever you are changing a cat’s diet, we recommend you make the transition gradual. Introducing new foods too quickly can upset their stomachs.
Read our guide on How to Switch to Limited Ingredients for more information.