A cat's joints undergo a lot of wear
and tear over the course of her life. Injuries, obesity, anatomical
abnormalities, and advancing age can all contribute to the damage.
Whether your cat has been diagnosed with joint disease or you are simply
looking for a way to maximize her mobility, learning about feline joint
health only makes sense.
What Is Feline Arthritis?
The word "arthritis" means
inflammation of a joint. Arthritis can have many causes, but the
most common form in cats occurs when cartilage within the joint breaks
down under stress, the protective nature of joint fluid declines, and
bony growths develop around the joint in an attempt to stabilize it.
This is called degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis.
Cats that have DJD often:
- Are stiff and sore
- May stop grooming themselves,
particularly around the lower back
- Have difficulty rising,
climbing and jumping
- Lose muscle mass
- Limp if one leg is affected
to a greater extent than others
- Become grumpy and less sociable
Veterinary Care for Arthritis
Veterinarians can usually diagnose
degenerative joint disease based on a cat's age, history of any musculoskeletal
injuries or developmental diseases, a physical exam, and x-rays of the
joints in question. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important
because other diseases that require different forms of treatment can
have symptoms that are very similar to those seen with osteoarthritis.
"Many pets suffering from degenerative joint disease benefit from weight loss, physical therapy and massage (if the cat is cooperative), cold laser treatments, and acupuncture."
Several treatment options for feline
DJD are available, and your vet can help you determine which is best
for your cat. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the
mainstay of treatment for canine degenerative joint disease, but cats
are very sensitive to their side-effects. The injectable form
of the drug Metacam has been approved for short-term postoperative
pain relief in cats, but some veterinarians will prescribe the oral
liquid to help with feline DJD.
Other pain relievers (e.g., buprenorphine)
or anti-inflammatories (e.g., prednisolone) may be used if an individual
reacts poorly to Metacam or has another condition that makes it too
risky to try.
supplements have a widely
recognized role in the treatment of arthritis in cats. Several substances have
been shown to help pets with DJD including:
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Some cat foods now even contain one
or more of the ingredients listed above.
Many pets suffering from degenerative
joint disease benefit from weight loss, physical therapy and massage
(if the cat is cooperative), cold laser treatments and acupuncture.
Combination therapy, for example using a nutritional
supplement and cold laser
together, often does a better job than any one therapy alone.
DJD is a progressive disease and as such, treatment plans that work
initially may need to be "tweaked" as a cat's condition worsens
over time. If all else fails, surgery to remove or replace a severely
damaged joint may be the best option.
Completely preventing DJD is usually
not possible if a cat has enough risk factors, but owners can do a lot
to delay its onset and slow its progression.
Keep your cat slim and in good shape.
Excess body fat puts extra stress on joints and may contribute to the
development of DJD in other ways as well. Strong muscles, tendons
and ligaments all help to support joints.
Nutritional supplements are very safe
and can be given to cats over long periods of time without worry.
Therefore, you do not have to wait until your cat is showing symptoms
of arthritis to start her on one of these formulations. Many products
combine several active ingredients. For example, Dasuquin for Cats contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and ASU.
If after a month or so, you are not pleased with your cat's response
to one brand of joint supplement, try a different manufacturer's product.
The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition.
This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not
be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of
your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.