Cat blood pressure checks too infrequent, study claims

Vets are being urged to carry out more regular checks on cats’ blood pressure following an international study of nearly 9,000 animals.

Almost 40 percent of cats included in the research, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgerywere found to have hypertension, based on current guidelines.

Researchers believe more routine monitoring will make dealing with the issue easier for pets and lead to better outcomes for animals.

‘Important disease’

Andrew Sparkes, one of the study’s authors, said: “Hypertension is an important disease, contributing to morbidity and mortality in affected cats.

“By assessing much more routinely, we ourselves become more adept at measuring blood pressure, making the results more reliable, and we become better able and better equipped to interpret the values ​​we obtain.

“Interpreting blood pressure values ​​is never going to be without challenges as there are so many variables that affect the results obtained. But the more we measure and the more experience we have in our own clinical situations, the easier the interpretation becomes.”

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The research used data on 8,884 cats aged between 7 years old and 26 years old in 811 clinics spread across 16 countries. Most of the animals were in Europe, with the largest proportion from the UK, although 16 cases from Argentina, 9 from Mexico and 1 from Chile were also included.

Overall, 39.7% of all the cats assessed were classified as being hypertensive, with systolic blood pressure (SBP) between 160mmHg and 179mmHg, or severely hypertensive with SBP of 180mmHg or more. Among those, 44.4% were found to have either concomitant chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or both, and cats with one of those conditions were more likely to be hypertensive than those with concomitant disease.

The paper – co-authored by Catherine Garelli-Paar, Emilie Guillot and Thomas Blondel of the French pharmaceutical firm Ceva – concluded that the findings “add weight to the greater need for routine SBP assessment – especially in cats at higher risk of hypertension to improve the generally low frequency” of current assessments.

Surprising findings

Dr. Sparkes, an independent consultant, said that link was expected, but admitted the finding that around 90 percent of cases saw assessments completed in 10 minutes or less had come as a surprise.

He said: “One of the major barriers to undertaking blood pressure measurements in cats in general practice is the perception, at least, that this can be a long process and takes too much time. These results are important because they suggest that in most cats, blood pressure measurement can be performed quite rapidly, at least in clinics where presumably blood pressure is being measured regularly. This has important clinical implications.

“Other published data shows that, in general, blood pressure assessments are made infrequently in cats, although this will obviously vary hugely from one clinic to another. It also appears that even when hypertension has been diagnosed, many cats are not monitored very closely.

“Incorporating blood pressure assessment more frequently as part of a clinical assessment and part of health care screening would undoubtedly benefit cat welfare.”

The study also found no significant difference in the measures recorded with oscillometric and Doppler equipment, although Dr Sparkes stressed that it did not mean different instruments could be used interchangeably. He said the study did not indicate cases of hypertension were increasing and suggested it may be largely dependent on the presence of other conditions, as most instances appear to be secondary.

‘Underdiagnosed’

Dr Sparkes added: “There is little doubt that hypertension remains an underdiagnosed disease in cats – largely because blood pressure is still not measured as widely as it should be in clinical practice.”

Hypertension can lead to damage of the eyes and nervous system, as well as major organs such as the brain, kidneys and heart.

Cardiac disease is one of the features of a new webinar series on feline health, which has now been launched by Vita Animal Health.

The group said more than 15 percent of cats have heart disease and a third of those are asymptomatic.

Educating owners

Vita Animal Health sales manager Tara Evans said: “Alongside producing functional products, we constantly strive to educate owners, as well as supporting pets. These webinars are a fun and engaging way of offering CPD to pets and valuable information to owners on common conditions we see in cats.”

The webinars, which also include sessions on stress and OA led by advanced practitioner Louisa Graham, can be found at www.vitaanimalhealth.com/#video

The study, titled: “‘The Mercury Challenge’: feline systolic blood pressure in primary care practice – a European survey”, can be found online.

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