Published on July 19th, 2019 | by Phoebe Skinner
Arthritis in Cats – What You Need to Know
We all know our pets get older, but we don’t always appreciate that they can begin to suffer age-related health complaints just like we do. Arthritis is one such complaint. Although many felines remain a kitten at heart – their joints can begin to the show the signs of wear and tear over time and because they can’t tell us – we need to be aware of the signs that something is amiss. So, that just like people – we can give allowances and do what we can to make them and their lives more comfortable.
Could it be Arthritis?
The main signs of arthritis in cats are:-
- Your cat may show reluctance or inability to jump or climb
- Your cat may display stiffness, reduced mobility and/or lameness
- Your cat may find it difficult to groom themselves especially their back or tail. They may also be reluctant to groom leading to an unkempt appearance
- Your cat may show a difference in behaviours such as grumpiness, unwillingness to be touched or reduced interaction. Cats that are in pain may become aggressive when approached or handled
- Your cat may find it difficult or refuse to use a litter tray if the sides are too high
- Your cat may show reduced interest in play
- Your cat may have painful, swollen or enlarged joints
- Your cat may show increased stiffness after resting which then “wears off” after moving about
- Your cat may be susceptible to strains
- Your cat may show a worsening of any of the above symptoms in cold or damp weather
How is Arthritis Diagnosed?
If your cat displays some of the above signs, then your vet can carry out a thorough examination to determine whether arthritis could be the cause. The vet will likely manipulate joints looking for reduced movement range, “grating” indicating wear of a joint, stiffness and any discomfort.
To check for any changes to the bone; x-rays may also be taken. Sometimes what seems to be classic arthritis may, in fact, be an infection or immune-based arthritis so blood tests or joint fluid may also be taken to be examined.
How is Arthritis Treated?
Medication tends to be the first line of treatment with long-term anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed to alleviate swelling and pain and increase mobility in the patient.
Feline Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Although these are often very effective, they do come with their own risks with long-term use being linked to digestive problems and even internal bleeding. It is crucial however to weigh the risks against the benefits. Arthritis will usually be causing your pet chronic pain, and medication that is generally well-tolerated will help to reduce that pain and improve the health and happiness of your cat who can get back to living as relatively near a normal life as possible.
Human Drugs are Toxic to Cats
It is important however to always have any form of treatment carried out under the care and direction of your vet. Anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for human use can be highly toxic to cats and must never be given to them even if you think their arthritis is the same as yours. Vets may also carry out blood tests in order to determine which dug will suit them best and to check kidney function which can be affected by some medication.
Many people swear by natural supplements such as green-lipped mussel to treat their arthritis, and there are veterinary versions of supplements available that ARE safe to be taken by your feline friends such as green-lipped mussel, chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine. Not only can these extracts reduce inflammation; they are also said to help repair damaged cartilage. The beauty of these supplements is that they will not do your cat any harm, have no known side effects and can actually be taken without risk of negative interaction with their prescribed medication. As always; it is vital to only use supplements under veterinary advice. It is important to note that giving your cat a supplement on its own is unlikely to control arthritis – prescribed medication will usually be needed to achieve a marked reduction in symptoms.
In the majority of cases, arthritis in cats can be controlled by prescribed medication or a combination of medication and natural supplements. However, surgery is sometimes advised is the arthritis is thought to be caused by an old injury.