FAQ’s About Feline Arthritis

Feline arthritis is more common than most cat owners realize, and this painful condition can significantly decrease your feline friend’s mobility. To help ensure your cat can continue to jump to their favorite resting spot, our Madison Street Animal Hospital team answers frequently asked questions about feline arthritis.

Question: What causes arthritis in cats?

Answer: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic, degenerative disease that causes cartilage to break down, decreasing an affected joint’s fluid-lubricating abilities. This eventually leads to inflammation and bony changes that cause pain and decreased joint function. Feline arthritis is usually a primary disease, meaning that an underlying cause cannot be determined, but some factors can increase your cat’s disease risk:

  • Genetics — Some cat breeds are predisposed to inherited conditions that put them at higher risk for arthritis, such as:
  • Hip dysplasia — Abnormal hip joint development is more commonly seen in Maine coons, Persians, and Siamese cats. 
  • Patella luxation — Kneecap dislocation is more commonly seen in Abyssinians and Devon rexes.
  • Abnormal cartilage — Scottish fold cats are predisposed to a cartilage abnormality that leads to severe arthritis, affecting multiple joints.
  • Injury — Fractures, dislocations, and soft tissue injuries that affect joints can lead to OA.
  • Body condition — Overweight and obese cats have an increased OA risk. The added weight places excess strain on joints, and fat tissue produces chronic, low-grade inflammation that can damage joint tissue.

Q: How common is arthritis in cats?

A: Cats commonly develop arthritis. Studies have shown that about 60% of adult cats and 90% of cats older than 10 years of age have arthritic changes veterinarians can detect on X-rays.

Q: How can I tell if my cat has arthritis?

A: Cats who have arthritic changes don’t always exhibit signs. However, painful cats’ behavior signs may include:

  • Reduced mobility — Arthritic cats don’t typically limp, but they may hesitate or refuse to jump on and off surfaces, avoid jumping to high surfaces, have difficulty navigating stairs, walk with stiffness after resting, or have difficulty going in and out of their litter box.
  • Decreased activity — Affected cats may sleep more, rest in places that are easier to access, or avoid interaction with people and other pets.
  • Changes in grooming — Arthritic cats may have difficulty grooming themselves properly, resulting in an unkempt hair coat. In some cases, an affected cat may over groom a painful joint, causing hair loss or raw skin over the area.
  • Changes in temperament — Arthritic cats may exhibit irritability or aggression toward people or other pets.

Q: How is arthritis diagnosed in cats?

A: Our Madison Street Animal Hospital team may have difficulty evaluating your cat in the exam room, because feline patients tend to hide and refuse to move around normally. Therefore, we depend on your description of your cat’s at-home behavior. In addition, videos are incredibly helpful when determining if your cat has arthritis. Other diagnostics we may use include:

  • Joint palpation — Our team will palpate and manipulate your cat’s joints to check for arthritis indicators such as joint pain, swelling, crepitus (i.e., bone-on-bone friction), and decreased range of motion.
  • X-rays — We may recommend an X-ray to determine whether your cat has bony changes.
  • Blood work — We often perform blood work, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, to rule out other conditions and ensure your cat can safely take arthritis medications we typically prescribe.

Q: How is arthritis treated in cats?

A: A multi-pronged strategy is typically necessary to effectively treat feline arthritis. Pain management techniques include:

  • Diet — Because excess weight exacerbates OA, overweight and obese cats should lose the extra pounds. Cats can experience serious health issues if their diet is suddenly drastically restricted, and veterinary supervision is necessary to control your cat’s weight loss carefully.
  • Home adjustments — Adjusting your home environment can help your arthritic cat. Tips include:
    • Ramps — Place ramps near elevated areas on which your cat typically likes to rest.
    • Beds — Provide comfortable cat beds to help support your cat’s achy joints.
    • Litter box — Use a low-sided litter box so your cat doesn’t find a new place to powder their nose, and place the litter box in a location convenient for your cat.
    • Food and water bowls — Ensure your cat can easily access their food and water bowls, and elevate the bowls to prevent discomfort when eating and drinking.
    • Grooming — Groom your cat regularly to prevent mats and overgrown claws.
  • Medication — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other pain-relieving drugs help manage your cat’s OA pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy exercises — We may recommend physical therapy to help your cat lose weight, increase joint function, and decrease pain.
  • Joint supplements — Our team may recommend glucosamine and chondroitin to provide cartilage support. We may also suggest omega-3 fatty acids to help decrease your cat’s joint inflammation. 
  • Surgery — In some cases, fusing or replacing the affected joint is necessary to alleviate your cat’s pain and increase their mobility.

Q: Can I prevent my cat from developing arthritis?

A: Feline arthritis can’t be prevented. However, to decrease your cat’s arthritis risk, follow these tips:

  • Maintaining an ideal body weight — Feed your cat an appropriate diet and limit treats to ensure they maintain an ideal body weight.
  • Exercising your cat — Use a laser pointer or wand-style toy to ensure your cat gets regular exercise.
  • Scheduling wellness visits — Regular veterinary wellness visits are important to detect conditions such as arthritis in the early stages when they are easier to treat.
  • Preventing injury — Keep your cat indoors to help them avoid traumatic events. Vehicle accident and animal attack injuries can cause OA.

If your cat refuses to jump to their favorite resting spot, contact our Madison Street Animal Hospital team so we can determine if they have arthritis. Our team will develop your cat’s pain management strategy to help improve their mobility.

By |2023-03-23T02:53:29+00:00March 22nd, 2023|News|0 Comments

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