I have been consistent in my messaging for years that the yearly well visit is so much more than simply updating vaccines. The yearly visit performed correctly also involves parasite screening and a through physical examination to facilitate early disease detection to promote quality of life and longevity. In cats 8 years of age or older, routine blood pressure measurement must be an integral component to the physical examination.
Hypertension, aka, high blood pressure, is a common and serious health concern in cats. It may be a primary health issue that can lead to degeneration of the kidneys and cardiovascular system and leaves the feline patient at risk for dangerous clot formations. Hypertension in cats may also be an early indicator of cardiac, kidney, and endocrine disease in cats that would prompt us to run some routine senior lab work to either rule in or rule out the presence of these diseases then address them appropriately if present.
Of the aforementioned diseases, the most common cause of death in cats is chronic kidney failure. Hypertension over time can accelerate degeneration of the kidneys that leads to kidney failure. On the flip side, kidney failure commonly leads to hypertension…which in turn accelerates progression of the kidney failure.
Thankfully blood pressure in cats is easily detected with a blood pressure measuring device called a PetMap where a cuff is placed on the tail to measure pressure over an average of 3-5 readings. Most cats tolerate the reading with minimal stress.
In addition, hypertension is easily treated. In cases of mild hypertension, I usually begin by just feeding a sodium restricted diet. If diet alone does not control the hypertension, then an affordable and safe regimen of two medications administered once daily (benazepril, amlodipine) is very effective in regulating blood pressure. If there is access to a compounding pharmacy which is the case in most areas, most medications can be compounded into one palatable suspension that can be administered in one simple treatment daily.
Here are some general guidelines as to when cats should routinely and regularly have their blood pressure checked:
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.