Cats can get arthritis which is a degenerative condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joint breaks down is medically known as Osteoarthritis. With this breakdown of cushion cartilage between joints, the bones will eventually rub together causing pain and decreasing the animal's movements. Constant rubbing of the bones creates bone spurs and other joint changes. This disease worsens with time and is considered a progressive disease and condition. With that said, arthritis can still be managed to optimize the remaining joint function and slowing the disease advancement.
Diagnosing arthritis can be difficult in cats. Much of the diagnosis will rely on your observation of changes in your cat. A few symptoms of arthritis to be on the look at for are
- Changes in chewing, eating and/or drinking habits
- Weight gain or loss
- Withdrawal from social interaction or avoiding being touched
- Changes in activity level
- Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping more or hyperactivity)
- Increased vocalization
- Increased urination and/or ’accidents’
- Grooms less or more or grooms some areas excessively
- Just not acting normal.
If your cat is showing any combinations of these symptoms, it is suggested to contact you veterinarian.
Because the symptoms and changes for arthritis can be subtle and sometimes go unnoticed, it is shown by research that there are more cats suffering from osteoarthritis than we are aware of. This is especially true for senior cats over the age of 11. Pain is often the fourth vital sign that is checked for in examinations for arthritis. Temperature, pulse and respiration are also checked. Pets will differ in how they show pain, so it is possible for the veterinarian to ask you questions during the examination to determine if pain is a possibility. If your pet is good at hiding pain, you may never realize that they are in pain, especially if you haven't been specifically looking for it.
Cats are also known to hide when they're not feeling well. Because of their natural tendencies and survival instincts, it can be more challenging to detect the subtle changes due to their unique ability to disguise their pain. Without a trained eye, it can be easy for some to assume their cat is perfectly healthy and would never have thought to be suffering from arthritis. Due to this characteristic, it's beneficial for cat owners to follow a timeline for checkups to examine common disease for each established period of age.
Below is an established guideline by AAHA and AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) to help you determine how often and when you should be visiting your veterinarian.
The chart below classifies a cat's life stage into six age groups from kitten to geriatric cat.
Treatment plans for arthritis may vary and include pain medication or acupuncture. Treatment plans for osteoarthritis will depend on your veterinarian, the diagnosis and what your pet responds to.
Often, areas of pain will be inflamed and difficult to move. Pain is a signal from the brain to let the body know that area is injured and not to overuse it in order to prevent further damage. Typically, inflammation is the first stage of healing and is part of a process to bring blood and nutrients to an injured area. With prolong untreated injuries, pain and inflammation often escalates.
Often, osteoarthritis in cats will be most noticeable in joints, elbows, hips, shoulder and ankles. Some arthritis can be seen in the vertebrae and sternum.
Joint supplements and anti-inflammatories can help reduce pain and help replace some joint fluid and cartilage and slow the deterioration. Some cats with osteoarthritis may also respond well to acupuncture treatments that activate a chemical reaction in the body to stop pain pathways and stimulate nerve function and blood flow that promote and allow for healing of the affected area. Treatment plans are to be prescribed and decided upon by your veterinarian after fully diagnosing your cat's health.
Pain management should also be discussed when visiting your veterinarian for your cat's arthritis. A pain management program designed with your veterinarian can include:
- Weight loss if your cat is overweight
- Increasing exercise and play
- Moving food and water dishes to a more convenient location and providing soft or therapeutic bedding
- Purchasing a litter box with low sides, cutting down high sides or constructing a ramp around the box may also help cats gain entry into the box more easily.
Find out if your cat has arthritis, contact
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