Most of us are quite familiar with the effects of arthritis and know that it commonly affects both people and dogs. Did you know that cats can also experience sore achy joints? We tend to let our friends and family know that we aren’t as limber as we used to be; that we can’t hike as far, or walk as fast, and we don’t feel as good after a game of sports. However, our pets often suffer in silence because we don’t recognize their symptoms as easily.
Our Pet of the Month for March is Buddy, a handsome 9-year-old orange tabby who was adopted from a local Seattle animal shelter in early December. Buddy’s story is an important reminder that cats do get arthritis and seeking treatment can make all the difference in the quality of their life. Buddy’s new owners had noticed that he was sensitive to handling and petting over his lower back and there seemed to be something different about his gait and mobility. A physical examination at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital confirmed their suspicions.
Here are some of the signs to watch for:
- Reluctance to jump up on the cat tree, the counter, the table (we all know our cats get up on these areas when we aren’t home).
- Change in gait, limping and not being as agile.
- Decreased interest in acrobatic play such as with a feather toy.
- Acting stiff when getting up after resting or sleeping; avoiding stairs.
- Change in grooming patterns – it can hurt to twist around and get the hard to reach areas.
- Acting painful when being petted or picked up.
- Unusual noises, grating, or creaking when the joints are moved.
- Sleeping more than usual or avoiding their normal activities.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and can affect any joint in the body. It particularly affects the joints of the spine, hips, knees and elbows in cats and dogs. Genetics, excess weight, injury, and some inflammatory or immune diseases can all be factors in the development of arthritis which leads to breakdown of the joint cartilage and the underlying bone. This in turn causes swelling of the joint, pain and chronic changes to the joint tissues. Radiographs of the affected joints help confirm the diagnosis.
Our feline friends don’t have as many options for treating arthritis because they can’t tolerate many of the drugs that are used in people and dogs. You can help lessen the risk of your kitty developing arthritis by keeping them at a normal weight – this means lean. Can you feel their ribs and contours easily? Encourage your cat lead an active life so they maintain good strength and muscle tone, but also help them prevent injuries. Remember that our free-roaming outdoor cats are especially vulnerable to injury by other animals and are at greater risk of being hit by cars.
After discussing the different options for treatment, Buddy was started on Adequan® injections – a prescription drug, used primarily in dogs and horses; it can make a difference for many cats too when used under the supervision of a veterinarian. Adequan® works to heal the cartilage and increase the lubrication within the joint. In addition, Buddy started taking Cosequin® a sprinkle capsule that is given daily; it helps provide the building blocks for the joints.
Fortunately, Buddy has responded extremely well and his owners are seeing a whole new active kitty. They look forward to helping Buddy enjoy his senior years with comfort. If you suspect your cat has arthritis, schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today. If you want further information about arthritis in cats, here is a link with more detail: