In 2002 there was a study published that indicated 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of arthritis. It is important to look for signs that your cat maybe suffering from arthritis. There are many different options available to help your cat feel better. If you notice or are concerned that your cat has any of the four most common signs of arthritis, make sure you speak with your kitty’s veterinarian about it!
What is Osteoarthritis?
A degenerative condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joint breaks down. Eventually, adjacent bones rub against each other, causing pain, decrease joint movement, and formation of bone spurs. Arthritis is very common in cats, and much more common and severe in older cats. Shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and ankles are the most commonly affected joints. It is not entirely clear what causes arthritis in cats. Further studies are needed to determine if it is similar to OA in humans, where mechanical damage to the joints may be the pivotal in development of the disease, or whether other factors are involved. Cats are masters of hiding discomfort and pain, so often they do not demonstrate obvious signs. It is a cats natural instinct to hide their pain; they will hide it until it is excruciatingly painful and they are no longer physically able to hide it.
Four signs your cat may have arthritis
Changes in grooming, changes in mood, reduced activity, and reduced mobility. It is important to identify what could be causing your cat to have any of the changes listed above. If you notice any of the following you should speak with your veterinarian to see what the cause could be.
Signs that your cat has altered grooming have include:
- Reduced frequency of time spent on grooming
- Matted and scruffy coat
- Sometimes over-grooming of painful joints
- Overgrown claws due to lack of activity and reduced sharpening of claws
Temperament Changes would be:
- More irritable or grumpy when handled or stroked
- More irritable or grumpy on contact with other animals
- Spending more time alone
- Avoiding interaction with people and/or other animals
- Increased time spent resting or sleeping
- Not hunting or exploring the outdoors
- Sleeping in different, easier to access sites
- Reduced interactions and playing less with people or other animals
- Reluctance, hesitance or refusal to jump up or down
- Less jumping up to lower surfaces than previously
- Less jumping up or down less frequently
- Difficulty going up or downstairs
- Stiffness in the legs, especially after sleeping or resting for a while; occasionally there may be obvious lameness
- Difficulty using litter box
- Difficulty going through the cat flap
Diagnosis is often based primarily on the presence of appropriate signs and changes in the home environment. If you see any changes in your cats behavior, mobility, activity, or grooming behaviors it is important to mention them to your veterinarian: remember, arthritis is painful. Your veterinarian will examine your cat and may be able to detect pain, discomfort, swelling or other changes affecting certain joints. If there is any uncertainty, your vet may suggest taking an x-ray of the joints.
Modifying the environment can greatly help maintain quality of life for an arthritic cat. Use soft, comfortable beds placed in easily accessible, quiet, warm locations. Using igloo style beds can make an older cat feel warm and secure. Provision of a series of steps or a ramp to allow cats to access higher sites. Make sure the cat flap is very easy to open, and if necessary, tie it open so the cat doesn’t need to push through. Always have a litter tray that has at least one low side for easy access. Make sure food and water are easily accessible, at floor level or with steps up to higher levels. Make sure the cat doesn’t have to go up or down stairs to access food, water, and litter box. Make sure to trim your cats nails to prevent overgrown claws. Spend time grooming and cleaning arthritic cats as grooming maybe difficult for them. Be gentle around joints when brushing- they may have some discomfort due to their arthritis.
Diet and Dietary supplements
Helping manage your cat’s weight will greatly help manage their arthritis; your cat being overweight will exacerbate arthritis. If your cat is overweight and showing signs of arthritis ask your vet about getting your cat on a weight loss plan. Several dietary supplements are available for cats with arthritis. They usually contain combinations of essential fatty acids that are designed to reduce inflammation, and glucosamine which is the building blocks of the cartilage in the joint. They are designed to improve cartilage quality.
Acupuncture and Laser Therapy
Acupuncture is the ancient practice of placing tiny needles in specific points on the body to treat a variety of conditions. Pain relief is the most common use for acupuncture in pets. Laser therapy uses a therapeutic laser that uses specific wavelengths of light to decrease inflammation and stimulate healing. During each painless treatment, the laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level to increase metabolic activity within each cell. A cascade of beneficial effects is initiated: increasing circulation, and drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain.
If your kitty could have arthritis it is important to recognize the signs of arthritis, and have your kitty evaluated by their veterinarian to determine severity and how to manage arthritis.