Arthritis in Cats
Arthritis in Cats
What is arthritis in cats?
We often hear of arthritis in dogs but what about arthritis in cats? Cats are better at masking the signs of pain and typically compensate for compromised joints far better than dogs do. This instinct makes it difficult for owners to know their cat is affected and often the degenerative disease is left undetected until the very late stages of cartilage and joint degeneration.
Arthritis is a painful and progressive joint disease that older cats are prone to developing. Arthritis occurs in the most common joints of the body typically the elbows, hips, knees and shoulders. While arthritis is not curable there are a number of effective treatments available to help control and manage arthritic pain and inflammation, helping your cat to live a good quality of life.
Just like dogs this chronic degenerative disease affects the cartilage and joint capsule wearing away the cushioning in between the joints making activity like jumping, climbing and even walking painful. Cats that have had previous surgery, ligament damage or any underlying joint disease are more susceptible to developing arthritis.
There are many factors which contribute osteoarthritis, including:
- Joint conditions – elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation or cruciate disease
- Obesity/being overweight – puts extra stress on the joints
- Previous injury – fractures, cruciate rupture/instability
What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in cats?
In cats, detecting arthritis is less obvious where the change in a dog’s gait can be easily seen cats may just display a reluctance to jump. Keep a lookout for any subtle behavioural changes, cats will tend to be less affectionate, may have a lack of appetite or they may stop using the litter box because climbing in and out causes too much pain.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats may be more subtle, for example:
- Urinating or defecating out of the litter box
- Reduced grooming leading to an unkempt coat
- Reduced appetite
- Jumping to lower heights or reluctance to jump up/down from heights
- Aggression: some arthritic cats are so very painful that they are quite irritable and exhibit pain induced aggression or petting intolerance
The signs may be especially noticeable in colder weather.
Diagnosing arthritis in cats
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is a treatment prescribed for feline arthritis, which is similar to how the condition is treated in humans. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and consider your cat’s history before recommending a treatment plan. An examination will include assessing the range of motion in the common joints around hip, knees, elbows and carpals to determine the state of your cat’s joint health.
When the cat shows signs of pain and distress, where there is a reduced range of motion, swollen joints or your vet can feel a bit of crepitation and instability in the joint. An X-ray, will help to diagnose the condition and formulate a suitable treatment to help your cat live pain free.
How to treat arthritis in cats?
Just like in dogs, weight management is very important. Dietary supplements such as omega three fatty acids and a prescription diet will help to lubricate the joints internally, reduce excess weight and avoid strain on already compromised joints
Before starting a course of anti-inflammatory medication or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment it’s important to make sure your cat does not have any underlying compromised vital organ functions such as kidney disease or liver disease. Treatment dosages need to be administered according to the patient’s individual requirements to prevent any side effects and protect the cat’s normal kidney functioning.
Treatment is a multimodal approach that includes weight management, pain medication, environmental modifications and nutraceuticals / joint supplements such as Antinol Rapid which when combined provides effective pain relief for an arthritic cat. While surgical manipulation and medication may be required just keeping your cat comfortable by providing soft bedding, heated blankets or even a hot water bottle may provide relief from the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Minimizing any excessive activity will also help to improve your cat’s daily life.
Early detection and early diagnosis will help to minimize arthritic pain and allow your cat to continue enjoying its favourite activities.