Changes in retinal vascular diameters in senior and geriatric cats in association with variation in systemic blood pressure

Andra-Elena Enache (Lead / Corresponding author), Ursula M. Dietrich, Oscar Drury, Emanuele Trucco, Tom MacGillivray, Harriet Syme, Jonathan Elliott, Yu-Mei Chang

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Objectives: Early diagnosis of arterial hypertension is essential to prevent target organ damage. In humans, retinal arteriolar narrowing predicts hypertension. This blinded prospective observational study investigated the retinal vessel diameters in senior and geriatric cats of varying systolic blood pressure (SBP) status and evaluated retinal vascular changes in hypertensive cats after treatment.

Methods: Cats with a median age of 14 years (range 9.1-22 years) were categorised into five groups: group 1, healthy normotensive (SBP <140 mmHg; n = 40) cats; group 2, pre-hypertensive (SBP 140-160 mmHg; n = 14) cats; group 3, cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and normotensive (n = 26); group 4, cats with CKD and pre-hypertensive (n = 13); and group 5, hypertensive cats (SBP >160 mmHg, n = 15). Colour fundus images (Optibrand ClearView) were assessed for hypertensive lesions. Retinal vascular diameters and bifurcation angles were annotated and calculated using the Vascular Assessment and Measurement Platform for Images of the Retina annotation tool (VAMPIRE-AT). When available, measurements were obtained at 3 and 6 months after amlodipine besylate treatment.

Results: Ten hypertensive cats had retinal lesions, most commonly intraretinal haemorrhages and retinal exudates. Arteriole and venule diameters decreased significantly with increasing age (-0.17 ± 0.05 pixels/year [P = 0.0004]; -0.19 ± 0.05 pixels/year). Adjusted means ± SEM for arteriole and venule diameter (pixels) were 6.3 ± 0.2 and 8.9 ± 0.2 (group 1); 7.6 ± 0.3 and 10.1 ± 0.4 (group 2); 6.9 ± 0.2 and 9.5 ± 0.3 (group 3); 7.4 ± 0.3 and 10.0 ± 0.4 (group 4); and 7.0 ± 0.3 and 9.8 ± 0.4 (group 5). Group 1 arteriole and venule diameters were significantly lower than those of groups 2 and 4. Group 2 arteriole bifurcation angle was significantly narrower than those of groups 1 and 3. Post-treatment, vessel diameters decreased significantly at 3 and 6 months in seven hypertensive cats.

Conclusions and Relevance: Increased age was associated with reduced vascular diameters. Longitudinal studies are required to assess if vessel diameters are a risk indicator for hypertension in cats.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Early online date19 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2021


  • Retinal vessel diameters
  • systematic hypertension
  • amlodipine besylate
  • systemic hypertension

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