Arthritis in cats

Arthritis is a painful inflammation of a joint which can be caused by genetics (e.g. hip dysplasia in Maine Coon cats, patellae luxation in Abyssinian and Devon Rex cats), immune mediated disease, injury or more commonly “wear and tear”.

Although arthritis is common in cats, it often goes unrecognised by owners due to their ability to hide pain and discomfort. Cats usually show few or any obvious signs of arthritis (e.g. limping or crying) instead they just change their habits or behaviour which owners often interpret as “being old”.

Common signs of arthritis in cats include
reduced mobility e.g. hesitance /refusal/less frequent jumping up/down or they jump to lower surfaces than previously, difficulty going up /down stairs, difficulty using the litter tray, stiffness in the legs after snoozing
reduced activity e.g. they tend to sleep more and in easier to access sites
altered grooming e.g. they often spend less time grooming so the coat gets matted /scruffy, occasionally they will over groom a painful joint, nails tend to overgrow as they don’t sharpen them as much
personality changes e.g. they often get grumpier and spend more time alone

If you notice any of these signs, then you should get an arthritis examination by your vet. Diagnosis is by a physical exam and sometimes x-rays.

Treatment involves
1)Environmental enrichment
-Use soft comfortable beds in easily accessible quiet location
-Use steps or ramps to allow access to favoured higher sites (e.g. sofa, window sill)
-Make cat flaps easy to open or tie it open so they don’t need to push through
-Have at least 1 litter tray with a low side so they can walk in rather than step in
-Have easily accessible food/ water bowls and litter trays so they don’t have to navigate stairs
-Spend time grooming and clip over grown nails

2)Diet and nutritional supplements
If your cat is overweight they will benefit dramatically from a slow controlled weight loss. Some diets and many supplements are fortified with essential fatty acids (that help reduce inflammation) and glucosamine/chondroitin (that help improve cartilage quality) that can benefit arthritic joints especially in the early stages. Diets really vary and the supplements are poorly regulated so speak to your vet about the effectiveness if you planning to use them.

3)Medical treatment
The most commonly used medication for the long term control of pain and inflammation are the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Cats have a unique metabolism, hence care is required when choosing a drug for long term use and monitoring for side effects is important. Other medications used include buprenorphine, amantadine, tramadol and gabapentin.

Good pain management and subtle environmental changes can make a huge difference to your cat’s quality of life.For more information, please ask one of our staff.