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Arthritis in Cats

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cat-300x200Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis in cats. Still, it is less common in cats than it is in dogs and produces milder symptoms. The diagnosis of osteoarthritis may be made by a physical exam done by your veterinarian and/or by joint x-rays that show bone spurs, joint space narrowing and increased density of bone around the joint.

Signs Your Cat May Have Arthritis

Arthritis can begin at any age, even in kittens. However, symptoms generally do not appear until much later in life. Watch for these early-warning signs of arthritis in your feline friend:

  • Reluctance to walk, jump, play, or climb stairs
  • Lack of interest in climbing the cat condo
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Limping
  • Difficulty grooming hard to reach areas
  • Meowing (possible sign of pain) when touched
  • Personality changes that involve resisting touch
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Urinating outside of the litter box
  • Swelling around affected joints

Stiffness and lameness are the most common symptoms of arthritis in cats. Lameness is usually worse when the cat wakes up but gets better as the day wears on.Please contact your veterinarian at the earliest signs of these or any other unusual changes in behavior.

Treating Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is incurable, but treatment can substantially improve the cat’s life. Keeping cats at a trim weight will take stress off their joints. It also helps to provide warm places for cats to sleep and rest. An arthritic cat may need steps to get to favorite places, such as the bed, couch, and the windowsill.

  • Supplements – Many cats will benefit from chondroprotective supplements such as glucosamine-chondroitin products to repair joint cartilage and prevent further damage. In severe cases, corticosteroids may be used to relieve pain and improve function. We offer a high quality nutraceutical chondroprotective product called Cosequin. It contains glucosamine hydrochloride, sodium chondroitin sulfate and manganese. This compound appears to modify the progression of the disease by preventing the further breakdown of cartilage.
  • Physical Therapy – Moderate exercise is beneficial because it maintains muscle mass and   preserves joint flexibility. Excessive exercise, however, is counterproductive. Overweight cats should be encouraged to lose weight. Being overweight seriously complicates the treatment of osteoarthritis. We offer special diet foods and a dietary consultation to design a plan for your pet. We offer Hills™ Prescription Diets R/D, W/D, and J/D to assist in weight control and joint health. 
  • Medications – Unfortunately, many of the medications developed to treat arthritis in dogs are not safe for cats and can be toxic. The same is true of medications developed for humans. Tylenol (acetaminophen), in particular, must never be used. Fortunately, pain or severe lameness in cats is infrequent and seldom produces significant disability.