Arthritis in Cats

Overview and Risks
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of arthritis is “the inflammation of joints.” Arthritis can be caused by a wide variety of conditions including infection, trauma, and degenerative changes due to age or overuse, metabolic issues, or other causes. All cats regardless of age or breed can be affected by arthritis, though obese cats are more likely to develop it than are their fit counterparts. Additionally, older cats are more prone to arthritis because of the years of wear and tear on their joints.

Arthritis can be mild to severe, and your pet may experience various signs depending on its severity.

Signs of arthritis include:

  • Lameness
  • Ain’t doin right (ADR)
  • Cringes/shies away when back or neck area is pet
  • Swollen joints
  • Popping and cracking when the joint moves
  • Muscle wasting (the muscles by the joint become smaller)
  • Licking of the joint area
  • Slow to rise up from a resting position
  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight gain
  • Unwillingness to walk, jump, or climb stairs
  • Accidents outside the litter pan
  • Depression or irritation

One way to evaluate your cat’s potential arthritis is to use a pain score chart, such as the one shown, below. This chart will allow you to evaluate your pet’s symptoms and identify the degree of severity.

In order to treat your cat’s arthritis, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and take a complete history of your friend. They will perform simple motion tests and observe your cat’s movements.

They may recommend the follow additional tests, as well:

  • Antibody/Antigen tests to identify if your cat has been exposed to infectious diseases that can cause arthritis
  • PCR testing, if necessary, to confirm exposure to certain diseases
  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver and pancreatic function as well as electrolyte and blood sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to screen for infection, inflammation, and anemia
  • Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infections and other diseases, and to evaluate the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine
  • A thyroid test to determine if the thyroid gland is producing too much or too little thyroid hormone
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the joints and back
  • Joint fluid analysis to help evaluate the cause of the arthritis

Once your cat has been diagnosed with arthritis, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment protocol tailored to your pet’s specific needs.

Treatments may include:

  • Treating the underlying cause of the arthritis, if possible
  • Prescribing medications to help decrease the inflammation in the joint and control the pain
  • Dietary management, if your cat is overweight
  • Nutritional supplements thought to stimulate production of lubricating joint fluid and help rebuild joint cartilage

If your cat is put on medication such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, your veterinarian may recommend routine lab tests of blood and urine to monitor your pet’s tolerance to the medication. Make sure you follow all recommendations from your veterinarian and call them immediately if your cat’s condition worsens.

While not all forms of arthritis are preventable, you can help reduce your cat’s risk as well as the severity of the disease by ensuring your four-legged friend gets plenty of appropriate exercise, eats properly, and that you contact your veterinarian early if you think your pet may have arthritis.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you take your purring pal to the vet for a checkup, he’ll run a series of blood panels and will probably want an X-ray of her entire skeleton. If one paw in particular seems to be bothering her, let your vet know. He may want to take a separate picture of that paw to get a good look at it. Once you have a positive arthritis diagnosis, your veterinarian might send you home with medications to help control her pain. He could also suggest giving her supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements rebuild cartilage between her joints, while omega-3 fatty acids can lubricate her joints and reduce some of the inflammation. If your veterinarian suggests giving Sofia supplements, remember that they won’t work overnight. It may take weeks or months for her to show signs of improvement.

Joint and bone problems in cats

Bone and joint problems are not uncommon for cats and cat owners. A happy and active cat can be effectively crippled by a condition such as rheumatism. Feline online has put together a guide to spotting symptoms, helping a cat with reduced mobilty and reasons why certain conditions occur.

Unlike many feline maladies, the symptoms of bone and joint afflictions are easily spotted by owners or care givers. This is because any bone or joint illness affects the mobility of the cat.

Symptoms to look out for include, reluctance to climb stairs or furniture, a reduction in mobilty, visible and/or audible discomfort caused by movement of limbs, favouring of certain limbs or limping,. Only you can tell if your cat is acting out of character, this is important because any discomfort can cause a cat to become lethargic and weak.

There are many causes of joint and bone problems, sress, trauma and infection amongst others.

If your cat is constantly in discomfort it is important that you seek to relieve this as not to diminish her quality of life. For example, if she is overweight this will only worsen the strain on her joints and subsequently cause them to become more inflamed. It is you that has control over her diet so you have the power to reduce her calorific intake. However, be sure not to reduce her intake of calcium as a reduction in calcium could eventually be proportional to a reduction in bone strength, this will only worsen an already serious problem.

Anti -inflamatory medicines are available but they are only really effective as a short term treatment and will work more effectively with a weight control programme..

A simpler way of improving her quality of life would be to ensure that everything she requires is in a close proximity to her. This way she will not over work any inflamed joints. It is important to encourage her to exercise, but only when it is not too painful for her.

Be sure to always refer any problems to a vet.

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