It is generally understood that pets develop arthritis. It is a commonly diagnosed condition and we are now better at managing it in our patients. Cats, however, tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to diagnosing and treating this condition.
Learn what you as a cat owner need to know about arthritis in cats and how you can help.
Arthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is a condition that affects the joints of the body. It occurs when the normal surfaces and structures within the joint begin to break down, leading to pain and inflammation.
Arthritis often occurs as part of the aging process due to long term wear and tear, but arthritis can also result from an injury or abnormal stresses on the joint due to things like poor confirmation and even obesity.
Arthritis tends to be a progressive condition, meaning it worsens over time. While we can’t cure arthritis, there are things that we can do to slow its progression and increase comfort.
Recognizing Arthritis in Cats
Cats are not small dogs, and it can be difficult to recognize signs of discomfort in them. This doesn’t mean, however, that arthritis is uncommon. In fact, one study suggests that approximately 90% of cats over the age of 12 have some form of degenerative joint disease.
Cats affected by arthritis do not always display obvious symptoms, but subtle changes are often detectable if you are paying close attention. Cats displaying one or more of the following symptoms should come in for an examination:
- Hesitating when jumping up or down
- Not jumping as high
- Avoiding jumping or using stairs
- Stiffness, especially when first getting up after resting
- Accidents outside the litter box (often due to pain)
- Being less active than normal
- No longer exploring
- Change in sleeping location
- Interacting less with people and other pets, or hiding
- Decrease in grooming behavior/inability to groom
- Matting or dull coat
- Overgrooming of areas over joints
- Grumpier than normal
Of course, many of these symptoms are the same for multiple conditions that affect our feline friends, but a good examination and diagnostic plan can help to determine what is ailing our cat patients.
Once a joint has arthritis, we can’t make it normal again. We can, however, manage your pet’s comfort level and support joint health in order to prevent worsening of the issue. When we diagnose arthritis in cats, our approach is often from multiple directions.
Weight management – Carrying extra weight is hard on the joints in cats as well as in people. Many times encouraging the slow, careful loss of a pound or two can dramatically increase the comfort level of our arthritic kitty patients.
Joint support – Multiple supplements and medications exist that support joint health and encourage healthy cartilage. These may include prescription supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, injectable medications, and even prescription foods designed for pets with arthritis. We work to find the right combination for each individual patient and situation.
Pain management – Degenerative joint disease is a painful, inflammatory process. Pain management can be an essential part of helping pets affected by this condition. When necessary, prescription medications, designed to alleviate inflammation and discomfort, can be extremely beneficial.
We also can work with you to institute environmental changes that can make your arthritic cat more comfortable at home. This might involve changing litter box location, replacing the old box with a shallow litter box, eliminating the need to jump, or moving food dishes. Little changes can make a big difference.
Summeridge Animal Clinic knows that even though cats don’t complain as loudly as dogs, they still deserve to live happy, pain-free lives. If you think that your cat may be suffering from arthritis, don’t hesitate in making an appointment.