Cats are known for staring at their owners with wide, unblinking eyes. The amount of time we spend looking at our cat’s eyes each day might shock you, but it also makes it easier to spot problems. Eye issues, such as infections, swelling or hemorrhaging are usually pretty obvious and can be a tell-tale sign of a more serious, underlying health concern.
One of the most common causes of eye problems in cats actually has very little to do with the eyes at all. Instead, the issue lies near the heart. Feline hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to significant eye problems like pupil dilation, retinal detachment and blindness.
Understanding high blood pressure in cats
Feline hypertension is when a cat’s arterial blood pressure is consistently higher than normal. Hypertension can come from a number of underlying health issues, like heart disease or hyperthyroidism, or it can occur naturally on its own.
Beyond the heart, feline hypertension can cause significant problems throughout your cat’s body, including its kidneys, nerves and eyes.
Cats with high blood pressure often display numerous symptoms, such as:
- Heart murmurs
- Dilated pupils
- Retinal detachment
- Hemorrhage of the eye
- Involuntary eye rolling
- Bloody urine
If you notice any of these signs in your pet, take it to the vet as soon as possible. There, the vet will take your cat’s blood pressure in a similar way to a human’s, with a blood pressure cuff. Typically, blood pressures of 160/119 to 179/100 necessitate some form of treatment to regulate blood pressure and protect your cat’s organs from damage.
Hypertension and the eye
Since many of the symptoms of feline hypertension aren’t extremely obvious, such as heart murmurs and bloody urine, pet owners often first notice something is wrong with their cat when it starts displaying symptoms in the eyes. Consistently dilated pupils, eye rolling, an inability to see and eye hemorrhaging are all easier to spot and signal a red flag to owners that their pet’s health is in danger.
Unfortunately, eye problems usually signify that the disease has been able to cause some form of damage already. Catching early signs of hypertension is not very easy.
Hypertension affects the eyes so much because of the number of blood vessels leading to and from the retinas. High blood pressure can cause small blood vessels (such as the ones in the eye) to burst, leading to detached retinas and partial or complete blindness. If this occurs, your cat will probably be unwilling to move around your home, or may appear disoriented, bump into things and be generally unaware of its surroundings.
Treating high blood pressure in cats
If the high blood pressure is determined to be a symptom of another disease, your vet will recommend treatment for that particular ailment first. In time, clearing up or managing the underlying health issue will usually solve the secondary problem of high blood pressure.
Here are some additional ways you can help your cat manage high blood pressure without medication:
- Proper nutrition: Obesity is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure in cats. Obese, hypertensive cats will usually need to follow a strict diet to help it lose weight. Sometimes, specially formulated foods will need to be purchased in order to get the right amount of nutrients into your cat’s body despite a caloric deficit.
- Boost omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, are well-known for their anti-inflammatory and heart-bolstering benefits. Adding these acids to your cat’s diet each day can help lower its blood pressure slightly.
- Natural supplements: Natural herbs can help strengthen the heart and help the cardiovascular system operate how it is supposed to, maintaining heart health and regulating blood pressure. If your cat does not have severe hypertension and is not on medication, blood pressure supplements may help it maintain normal levels and continue with its everyday life.
- Reduce stress: If your kitty has high blood pressure, make its life as easy as possible by minimizing the number of stressors that may trouble it and avoid making major life changes to keep the cat feeling as stable as possible. Much like in humans, stress can cause your cat’s blood pressure to skyrocket, which can be dangerous if its baseline is already higher than average. Provide your cat with a calm, stable environment and ensure all changes come with smooth, gradual transitions so your cat has time to adjust.
With careful monitoring, routine blood pressure checks and a stress-free environment, your cat should be able to live out its days safely even after a diagnosis of high blood pressure.