Arthritis in cats is more common than we think. Unfortunately, cats hide their pain very well, making it hard to tell when they are suffering the pain of arthritis. We at Mitchell Veterinary Services feel that arthritis is missed so often in cats that we have decided to dedicate a blog specifically to our feline friends!
What is arthritis?
Arthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. This leads to remodeling of the bones in the joints, abnormal contact between the bones in the joints, inflammation and pain.
What is the cause of arthritis?
Arthritis can be caused by various factors:
- Previous damage to a joint: any joint that has sustained an injury (such as fractures or torn ligaments) will be prone to developing arthritis in the future.
- Abnormal forces on a joint: If the bones of a joint are structured abnormally (as in cases of hip dysplasia) the bones will contact each other abnormally and lead to arthritis.
- Aging: Unfortunately, cartilage tends to break down as cats age and can lead to the development of arthritis.
How can I tell if my cat has arthritis?
Cats are very good at hiding pain and signs of arthritis, therefore, you need to watch for subtle signs.
- Playing less/not playing with its favourite toys
- Difficulty or hesitancy using stairs
- Not jumping up on things that it used to
- Urinating or defecating outside of its litterbox
- Grooming less/hair getting matted/unkempt coat
- Any change in behaviour
How is arthritis diagnosed?
Arthritis is often diagnosed on a thorough physical examination with your veterinarian. Sometimes your veterinarian may need to take X-rays to confirm arthritis and rule out other conditions.
How is arthritis treated?
The good news is there are many options in treating arthritis. In a future blog, we will explore these options in more detail. After a thorough physical examination, your veterinarian will be able to tell you what options are best for your cat. Some treatments include:
- Weight loss
- Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids
- Specialized diets
- Anti-inflammatory and pain medications
Remember, arthritis is a chronic pain which means that your cat will not show obvious signs like crying out, even when in severe pain. It is important to take your senior cat to your veterinarian at least annually so that she may evaluate your cat for these subtle signs. Since cats hide pain so well, a trial of pain medication is often required to actually see the difference the arthritis pain is making on your cat’s quality of life. If you notice any of the signs as listed above, contact your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of arthritis in your cat.