Managing arthritis in cats

Managing arthritis in cats

Hello Kitty lovers!

Today we are going to be talking about arthritis, a common and painful condition often that is often missed in cats. Typically arthritis occurs in older cats (>10 years of age) but it can affect younger cats too.

What is arthritis?

When we talk about arthritis in cats we are usually referring to something called osteoarthritis (sometimes called degenerative joint disease) where movable joints such as the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders become inflamed and painful, making normal mobility difficult.

OA (osteoarthritis) tends to develop primarily due to constant wear and tear of the joint or sometimes secondary due to an old injury to the bone or ligament (see photo) As it stands most older cats will have some degree of arthritis, but the signs of OA in cats can be very subtle and more difficult to detect than in a dog. Cats are very good at hiding pain, so owners need to carefully monitor their older cats for any subtle changes in behaviour or routine that could indicate a problem.

Signs of arthritis include:

  • Unwillingness to jump or climb up or down
  • Change in sleeping area (favours lower surfaces)
  • Difficulty tackling the stairs
  • Difficulty using the litter tray or cat flap (urinates/defecates outside of tray)
  • Reduced interest in play or hunting
  • Increased stiffness after resting
  • Unable to groom properly – matted coat –esp. over hip/spine
  • Over grooming and hair loss over painful areas (joints)
  • Reduced use of scratching post (claws long, growing into pads)
  • Temperament changes – more irritable, resents being handled by owner
  • Less interaction with owner and rest of animals in household – sleeps more
  • Aggression when handled (may bite/scratch)

Helping your cat
There are several ways that you could dramatically improve your cat’s quality if you suspect he/she has arthritis. By modifying your cat’s environment and seeking veterinary attention you could have a much more comfortable and content cat.

Home improvements:
Give your cat easy access to its favourite places – be creative! This could mean anything from strategically places ledges or boxes near the cat’s favourite resting places, which allows them to gain access without too much effort. Make sure your cat has lots or soft, cosy beds to allow them to stay warm and comfortable (radiator beds are popular with older cats, providing they can access them easily) Try using a horizontal or cardboard scratching post instead of the traditional vertical and sisal posts. You could also try modifying your cats litter tray by cutting out a lip at the front so that he/she can climb in and out easily.

Weight:
Whilst we don’t know exactly why cats get arthritis, we know that overweight cats can be more affected. This is due to the addition of extra weight putting more pressure on the damaged joint/s. Owners of overweight cats that are arthritic should seriously consider contacting their veterinary nurse at the local veterinary practice in order to book their cat into a weight clinic. Veterinary nurses are able to offer good advice on the best diet for the cat to facilitate safe and effective weight loss, which can be monitored over a period of months.

Medication:
Analgesic (pain relieving) medications can be extremely beneficial to cats suffering from arthritis . Medications such as NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are widely used to help provide daily pain relief. There are also other pain relief medications such as opioids that are available if NSAID’s are not recommended. Any medications given to cats should be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon once a diagnosis has been made.

Supplements:
Supplements that contain EFA’s (essential fatty acids) and glucosamine/chondroitin) can help reduce joint inflammation and improve the quality of the cartilage over the surface of the joint, therefore reducing friction and pain. These supplements can be beneficial for some (but not all) cats Speak to your veterinary surgeon or nurse about the best product to use for your cat. Remember that a supplement is not a replacement for a prescribed medication or proper veterinary care.

Acupuncture:
This should always be performed by a veterinary surgeon who has undertaken specific training to perform acupuncture on cats. Misuse of acupuncture needles can be very dangerous. Some owners have found it useful to manage OA in their cat as part of a treatment plan (see photo) as the needles encourage the release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain relieving chemicals) thus reducing pain in the affected area.

That’s all for now

Purrs and meows

Mr Monkey Business xx