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Arthritis in cats

So many human medical conditions also occur in companion animals – including arthritis – and the condition is increasingly being recognised in cats.

Arthritis results from the wearing down of the cartilage lining affected joints and a decrease in the synovial fluid (lubricating oil) within those joints. Causes are varied and include damage due to old age, injury, and growing or inherited defects.

How do you know your cat may be suffering the painful effects of arthritis? Symptoms include:

  • Decreased activity, increased sleeping time and disinterest in play, often leading to an increase in weight
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Changes in attitude or behaviour, grooming behaviour, and differences in the way a cat uses its litter tray.

Many owners associate these symptoms with old age, rather than chronic pain. It is possible to make life comfortable for a cat with arthritis.

If you suspect your cat is showing signs of arthritis, a physical examination, which may include X-rays, is advisable. Diagnosing the problem and starting an early treatment/prevention plan can help ease the pain and slow the progression of the disease.

The good news is that, as in human medicine, there are now excellent, effective arthritis treatments for pets, but before discussing treatment it’s best if you can work with our vets to tackle your cat’s arthritis with a complete health plan.

This means ensuring your cat is not overweight. The loss of weight in obese cats can make a huge difference and it’s often exciting for everyone – pet, owner and vet – when a previously overweight and inactive cat becomes more energetic and eager to play just through weight loss. As long as any increase in exercise is managed with the level of joint damage, the higher level of activity can help maintain appropriate weight.

Arthritis treatments are varied and must be prescribed by a vet and managed according to the level and type of arthritis.

NEVER be tempted to give human medication to pets. Drugs safe for humans – such as Paracetamol – can be fatal for cats.

Most treatments are targeted at relieving pain while improving the quality of cartilage and joint fluid, cartilage cell production and blood supply and nutrients to the joint. They include animal-specific arthritis supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Joint-specific or mobility support diets are also now available, including the Hill’s J/D Science Diet and prescription diets from Royal Canin.