What is arthritis?Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints. This term is most often used to describe osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease), which is the most common form of arthritis in cats. Osteoarthritis is a condition when the cartilage that covers the articulating surface of a joint wears out, and the underlying bones rub against each other causing stiffness, lameness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in older cats, but younger ones can also be affected. A cat that suffers from arthritis will usually exhibit the following symptoms:
Photo by Ricardo Saramago
- reluctance to jump and leap,
- swelling around affected joints,
- muscle atrophy,
- lameness when the cat wakes up, with gradual improvement during the day,
- irritation and other behavior changes.
If your cat has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, don't despair. Even though this disease is incurable, proper on time treatment can significantly improve the quality of the cat's life. Follow your vet's recommendations, and keep the following information in mind.
Keep your cat slimExcessive weight results in additional strain on the joints, which can increase the pain. Besides, fat cells secrete hormones that contribute to pain development. Therefore, it's very important to keep your arthritic cat lean and slim. This can be achieved by maintaining your cat's diet and encouraging moderate physical exercise.
Please remember that excessive exercise can increase pain and therefore become counter-productive. An arthritic cat should never be encouraged to stand up on its back legs! Experiment with different types of toys to find out which ones your cat enjoys most.
Make sure you feed your cat a high quality (grain free or raw) diet, and the amount of food is well-balanced. Consider food puzzles as they usually require your cat to work to be fed, and they're also a great stimulation and fun.
If your cat is overweight and you're not sure how to proceed, speak with a veterinary physical therapist about a weight loss program suitable for your cat.
Arthritic cat therapyThere is a number of medications used to relieve arthritic pain in cats. Your vet will normally prescribe what he thinks should work best in your particular situation for your particular cat. Do not use any medications unless you've discussed it with your vet! These are not just routine words but an extremely important thing to realize because many medications designed for dogs and humans can be toxic to cats, and you should never experiment with them. The same applies to medications designed for cats - they can be fatal if used improperly.
When your vet suggests a medication, make sure you're aware of possible side effects of this medication so that you can make an informed decision about your cat's therapy. Ask your vet about alternative approaches such as homeopathy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, hydrotherapy, and laser therapy. A combination of the traditional and alternative therapy usually works best, although some cat owners prefer to stick to the alternative methods only.
It's worth mentioning that glucosamine and chondroitin products can help repair joint cartilage and prevent further damage. They are safe and known to be effective in mild cases, but they require long-term daily dosing in either capsule or powder form.
Make sure you provide your cat with warm places to sleep and rest on, as cold and damp conditions increase pain and stiffness.