Cat (Feline) Arthritis Symptoms and Treatment
Pay attention to the signs
March 03, 2013
As cats get older, joint cartilage naturally starts deteriorating and joints become less flexible. While arthritis symptoms may be very noticeable among dogs, cats are more adept at masking their symptoms.
Symptoms of Cat Arthritis
Older cats are likely to develop arthritis, but cats at any age who have suffered from infections and injuries are also prone. You may not notice the symptoms at first, or you may attribute your cats symptoms to just “slowing down” in their old age. Since your cat can’t tell you what hurts, here are some symptoms to look for in your cat:
- Decreased activity
- Disinclination to walk, climb, jump or play
- Difficulty lifting oneself up
- Soreness when being stroked or picked up
- Worsening litter box habits (caused by pain from getting in and out of the box)
- Increased aggression
- Becoming withdrawn
Rule Out Other Diagnoses
Talk to your veterinarian before beginning treatment to rule out other serious diagnoses. Some other diagnoses may include: spondylosis, ligament tears, Lyme disease, and invertebral disc disease. Your veterinarian will probably do X-rays to ensure that the problem is arthritis.
Early diagnosis of cat arthritis is essential to effective treatment. Depending on the severity of arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend the following as treatment options.
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Pain medications
- Nutritional supplements
- Glucosamine for cats
- Weight loss management
Many veterinarians are quick to prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications to arthritic pets. These medications will not improve or slow down the progression of arthritis. They are simply used for pain management. Furthermore, there are side effects associated with long-term use of such medications, including cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues. If your cat is near the end of its life, these medications may be the best option. If your cat is still in its prime, a supplement such as glucosamine will be favorable.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are widely used among pets and people with arthritis. Unlike other anti-inflammatories and pain medications, glucosamine and chondroitin help to rebuild and prevent damaged or deteriorated cartilage. Studies show fewer side effects compared to alternative medications, and long-term side effects are practically non-existent.
If your arthritic cat is overweight, we strongly advise weight management. Each ounce of extra weight places more pressure on your cat’s joints. Extra weight can advance the onset and progression of arthritis. Make sure your cat is eating the right amount of quality food each day. Inside cats typically require less food than their outside counterparts. There are also diet cat foods available at your local pet store. Exercise will certainly help your cat lose weight. Moderate to Severely arthritic pets will require short sessions of low impact exercise as to not cause more damage and pain.
Tips to Make Your Cat Comfortable
In addition to the treatment options above, there are other ways to ensure that your cat leads a happy, healthy, pain-free life.
- A soft blanket or bed placed on the floor may be more suitable for cats that have trouble jumping.
- Daily, gentle massages will help relax your cat and ease arthritic pain.
- If your cat has trouble grooming parts of her body, groom these parts daily.
- If your cat has trouble getting up and down stairs, make sure that her necessities (food, water, litter box) are all on her most used floor of the house.
- If you have other animals or children in the house, make sure your cat has a ‘safe area’ that she can go to when she’s not feeling up to the company.
Arthritic cats can lead happy, healthy lives if they receive treatment and care.
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