Webster Lake Veterinary Hospital

Feline Arthritis


Most cats are naturally extremely agile and athletic animals, but inevitably their joints, ligaments and bones are vulnerable to the wear and tear of everyday life. However, thanks to their lightness, sense of balance, ability to land on their feet and built-in shock absorbers, cats do not suffer from as many orthopedic problems as dogs and people. The seriousness of osteoarthritis depends on the nature and severity of any underlying cause, on the joints affected and on the general health status of the cat involved. A cat that is overweight will always suffer more than one who is not obese. Arthritis is a painful condition, and for this reason, it shouldalwaysbe taken seriously. As osteoarthritis is a progressive condition, the treatment in any given case will need to be adapted from time to time.


Clinical signs include Limping or stiffness: this may be mild or intermittent initially, but will gradually become worse over time. You may also see you cat hesitate or avoid using stairs or jumping on the furniture. Typically, any lameness or stiffness may be more pronounced after rest, and may appear to wear off when the cat has been moving about for a few minutes. The stiffness shown by an affected cat may also become worse in cold and damp weather or after periods of extreme exercise then followed by rest.


Diagnostic Testing– X rays of the affected joints are needed to confirm the diagnosis, but do not always correlate with the clinical signs.


Treatment– Surgery may be needed in some cases of joint instability. Medical therapy involves measures to decrease stress on the joint, improve the health of joint cartilage and surfaces, improve mobility and decrease pain.


Exercise management- Although it is very difficult to impose an exercise regime on a cat, those individuals who are affected by osteoarthritis will benefit from regular activity. A small amount of exercise taken frequently is recommended, so be prepared to wake up your cat for a wander about every now and again, and avoid letting him sleep in one place for hours at a time. Keeping your cat's joints (and the rest of his body) warm will help, as may massage of his joints and physical therapy.


Dietary management- Weight control is an important feature of any treatment for arthritis. It is the most inexpensive and the most effective way to manage arthritis. If your cat is overweight, you must follow dietary advice. The heavier your cat is, the more stress there is on their joints, thus causing even more pain the heavier the cat. Diets such as Hill’s R/D or W/D or Purina OM are complete diets designed for weight loss. Studies are proving that a wet food diet is more helpful in weight loss than dry kibble alone. Even changing from free choice feeding to 2 meals a day can be helpful.

Products- Cosequin® is acombination of Glucosamine, CS, Manganese and Ascorbate. Dasuquin is Cosequin that also contains avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU). Cosequin comes in sprinkle capsules that are easily opened and sprinkled on the food. Also, powder, and chewable tablets are avaiable. Cosequin has safely been used in people, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other species. These products help improve mobility naturally by buffering the joint. This is a long-term product that needs at least 4 weeks to see signs of improvement. Find out more at http://www.nutramaxlabs.com/products/animal

Anti-inflammatory medications(NSAID) – Such as Metacam can be used. Ideally, this should only be used in the short term, as and when necessary to encourage movement. These drugs are tolerated poorly in cats for long-term use. NEVER give a cat aspirin or any other human pain meds for these reasons. Do not think of them as miracle cures simply because your cat's stiffness disappears when he is on them. In most cases these medications are acting simply as painkillers, and should only be used in addition to weight control and good exercise management.


Other Pain Medications-Tramadol is also an option that is safer on the liver and kidneys than NSAIDS. Tramadol is related to morphine and can have a sedative affect. Tramadol only comes in pill form

Follow Up Care– Periodic rechecks are advised to monitor response to therapy and progression of disease. Laboratory tests are often preformed prior to and during long term NSAID therapy, because these drugs can cause or aggravate existing liver and kidney disease.



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