Cat Care | Osteoarthritis

If you cat isn’t leaping or running anymore, it could be for a good reason. Osteoarthritis, a chronic, degenerative joint disease, makes movement difficult and painful. It mainly affects pets in their middle and senior years. However, younger animals can also contract the disease.

It can be heartbreaking to see your once lively cat begin to limp. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there is a great deal that you and your vet can do to limit discomfort and increase your cat’s mobility.

Early Signs of Osteoarthritis

  • Difficulty walking, climbing stairs, or jumping
  • Overall decrease in activity and playfulness
  • Resting more than usual
  • Slowness when getting up
  • “Bunny hopping” in the hind legs, rather than running normally.
  • Slow or stiff movements when waking up or during cold weather
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints that are warm to the touch
  • Licking or biting at a joint
  • Personality change – no longer wanting to be touched

Causes of Osteoarthritis:

There are many causes, but they can all be grouped into two main categories:
1. Abnormal Stress on Normal Joints

  • Any injury that damages a joint.
  • Wear and tear: joints are subject to repeated stress or strain.
  • Obesity: excessive weight is put on normal joints.

2. Normal Stress on Abnormal Joints

  • Developmental issues that alter the shape and stability of a joint.
  • Poor limb configuration, such as bow legs or knock knees.
  • Genetics: some breeds suffer from joint pain more than others.

the specific cause, stress on a joint can begin a destructive cycle of inflammation and damage to the cartilage that hurts your cat.

How Is It Treated?

Treatment includes three main parts, each as important as the last:

1. Weight Control

Cats that suffer from chronic joint pain often become inactive, which can result in obesity. Controlling your cat’s weight will lighten the load on joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss for animals involves a proper diet and regular exercise. Ask your vet for more advice on proper diet for cats.

2. Exercise

This is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Daily, moderate amounts of low-impact exercise also improves joint mobility and can help get an arthritic pet active again. Cats will benefit from such activities as walking and swimming. Ask your vet about what amount of exercise would be best for your cats. Also, be aware that joint pain can be worse at times than others. If this is the case, wait a couple days in between flare-ups for additional exercise.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Specialty drugs can combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility and protecting the joint from further damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the drugs of choice for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis. Treatment will not sure the condition, but will help ease the pain when present.

Your vet may also suggest physical therapy, cold or hot packs and baths, massage or acupuncture as well as nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitine to help control pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.

Living Life with Osteoarthritis

The disease may accumulate slowly over several years, or very quickly over a couple of weeks or months. It all depends on factors like: your cat’s age, their activity level, the joints involved and genetics. Some pet’s pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs. For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other treatment options. In either case your vet can determine the best course of treatment for your cat’s particular condition.