Did you know that cats over eight years of age are considered seniors? As cats age they are prone to arthritis. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and tissues around the joints. One study has shown that by 12 years of age, 90% of cats have some degree of arthritis. Predisposing factors for developing arthritis include obesity, age and cats with extra toes, as well as a history of joint trauma.
Here at Mitchell Veterinary Services, we diagnose arthritis in many cats. The signs in a cat generally develop slowly and may be misinterpreted. Cats may show hesitation when attempting to jump up or down from high surfaces or avoid them altogether. A cat may be reluctant to use stairs and may have accidents outside of the litter box, particularly if the box is painful for them get to and then climb into. A cat may seem cranky, groom itself less and not want to be brushed or handled. It may sleep more and interact with its family members and environment less. Pain, walking stiffly with a crouched gait and limping may also be noticed on any of its four limbs.
Observing your cat at home for these signs is the first step to diagnosing arthritis. During a physical exam at the clinic, a veterinarian may detect a reduced range of motion, or feel a grinding sensation or sore spot when the joints are manipulated. X-rays may be of benefit to look for changes in the bone that indicate arthritis. Analyzing bloodwork and doing a complete physical exam can help rule out other conditions with symptoms that look like arthritis.
Treatment of arthritis with several therapies can improve a cat’s quality of life. Small changes to its environment can go a long way to improve its comfort. Using a low and wide litter box that is on the same floor as the cat can make bathroom time more comfortable. Arthritic cats love extra-soft padded bedding. Heating pads at a low setting and warming discs covered with a soft blanket can be put in the bed as well. Provide stepstools for your cat to reach its favourite spot. If a cat is overweight, a weight loss plan is important to prevent additional stress to its joints. Several alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and therapy laser may be beneficial. Joint supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and polysulfated glycosaminoglycans can slow down and even reverse joint degeneration in animals with arthritis. Omega 3 fatty acids also have mild anti-inflammatory benefits for joints. Pain medication may also be prescribed by one of our veterinarians, depending on your cat’s needs.
We at Mitchell Veterinary Services want senior cats to experience as little arthritis pain as possible as they enter their golden years. Please let us know if you think your cat may be showing signs of arthritis and would like more information on how to keep your cat comfortable.