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Good, Practical Advice You’ll Need For Arthritis In Senior Cats – From A Vet

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This article about arthritis in senior cats is written by Dr Ali Raza a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Veterinary Sciences.

Cat arthritis is a common problem as cats age. Arthritis is the first major sign of aging that is noticed by pet parents. The incidence of arthritis is higher in senior cats.

This article covers all aspects of arthritis in old cats.

We will talk about the signs of cat arthritis, its causes, and different measures that you can take, to improve the quality of life, of your senior cat suffering from arthritis affected joints.

an elderly cat

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Arthritis?

The most obvious signs of arthritis in cats are difficulty moving painful joints and reduced mobility.

A cat with degenerative joint disease will be reluctant to move and even carry out normal activities. Cat arthritis causes changes in the temperament and grooming habits of the affected cat.

A cat suffering from arthritis can show all or some of the following clinical signs:   

  • Limping
  • The affected joint may be swollen
  • Stiff in limbs especially after some period of inactivity
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Difficulty in carrying out routine activities such as using litter box
  • Reluctance to exercise and play, a loss of interest in play
  • Irritation from touch during petting due to joint pain
  • Difficulty jumping and reduction in jump height
  • Licking and biting of the affected limb may be seen
  • Reduced appetite
  • The range of motion of affected limb is reduced
  • Unexpected aggression towards people and other pets
  • Reduced frequency of grooming time
senior cat

What Causes Arthritis in Cats?

Arthritis is the inflammation of the joint. Joints are formed by combination of two or more bones.

Joints of cats are complex structures. The ends of the bones are covered by cartilages that make the movement smooth and pain-free.

Over time, this cartilage covering, undergoes degeneration. This leads to increased friction between the bones. This results in inflammation and joint pain.

Factors That Make A Cat More likely To Suffer From Arthritis

Age

Age is one factor to consider when diagnosing cat arthritis. Older cats are more likely to suffer from arthritis.

Weight Of The Cat

Obese and cats that are overweight, have an increased risk of suffering from arthritis.

More weight on already painful joints mean more strain on the joints and an increased risk of arthritis.

Nutritional deficiency

A nutritionally rich and balanced diet helps your cat live a long healthy life.

A diet low in minerals and nutrients can weaken your cat’s immune system and he can suffer from several diseases including arthritis.

Older cats can also suffer from dental issues and may have teeth missing. Older cats can still have a good diet even with dental problems.

Genetic predisposition

Some cats are genetically predisposed to arthritis.

In addition to joint disease, there are other factors to consider such as a previous fracture, joint injury, abnormal joint development or orthopedic surgery.

old cat eating

What Can You Do For Arthritis In senior Cats?

Pets are family and it’s heart breaking to see your cat suffering from feline arthritis. Following are some steps that you can take to ease the suffering of your arthritic cat.

A) Weight Control For Cats With Arthritis

Weight management is one of the most important aspects of giving your cat a pain-free life. Overweight cats are predisposed to arthritis. More weight on the joint means faster degeneration and more arthritic pain. Overweight cats are less likely to recover from arthritis.

Carefully controlled weight loss under a vet’s supervision is a drug free formula for cats suffering from arthritis. Your vet may recommend a special diet for safe weight loss with the aim of achieving a lean body mass.

It is difficult to reduce weight in a cat, so it is advised that weight should never exceed the recommended weight limit in the first place. A balanced diet with adequate exercise will help your cat stay fit and healthy.  

B) Exercise For Cats With Arthritis

Even if your cat is suffering from arthritis, you should not quit exercising. Exercise strengthens your cat’s muscles, cartilages and ligaments.

Arthritis can cause stiffness and reduced mobility in cats. Exercise can help improve the flexibility and range of motion in arthritic cats, making it easier for them to move around and perform daily activities. Make sure you don’t overdo this as it can result in pain and swollen joints.

Exercise increases blood flow, which can help reduce inflammation and promote healing in the affected joints.

Weak muscles can also contribute to joint problems. Exercise can help strengthen your cat’s muscles, which can provide better support for their joints.

C) Diet For Cats With Arthritis

There are many supplements and diets available for old arthritic cats.

These diets for old cats with arthritis contain ingredients that can strengthen the cartilages of your cat’s joints. Fatty acids included in the diet help in prevention of inflammation at the site of arthritis. The efficacy of these supplements and diets is still under study.

You should consult your veterinarian if your cat is overweight and arthritic. He may suggest a specialized diet for weight management in your cat.

Related: Cat food bowls raised from the floor will make a huge difference to the comfort of your senior, arthritic cat when eating.

elderly marmalade cat

Veterinarian Treatments For Cats With Arthritis

There are treatment options available for a cat suffering from arthritis. These include:

Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) For Cat Arthritis

The use of NSAIDs is the most common method for treating arthritis in cats. NSAIDS reduce the inflammation at the site of tissue damage and relieve the pain of cat arthritis.

Managing the inflammation can slow down the joint degeneration and improve the cat’s quality of life. NSAIDs should only be used in cat arthritis treatments, when prescribed by your vet and only for the recommended duration to minimize the risk of side effects.

Long term use of pain medication using NSAIDs can lead to several side effects. Gastrointestinal problems are most commonly seen in senior cats after taking NSAIDs over long period of time.

Supplemental Analgesic Drugs For Cat Arthritis

In some cats, when NSAIDs are not sufficient or not appropriate they are given alternative pain relief and pain killing drugs. These drugs include

The use of Tramadol, Amantadine, Buprenorphine, Gabapentin is carried out under supervision of a veterinarian.

Injectable Joint Protectants For Cat Arthritis

This cat arthritis treatment option includes administering injections of glycosaminoglycan every four weeks to the cat, to help to relieve the pain.

Acupuncture For Cat Arthritis

Acupuncture can help to ease the pain related to cat arthritis in senior cats.

In this procedure, sterile needles are placed at selected acupuncture points. This increases the blood flow, reduces painful inflammation, promotes healing and improves joint health and mobility.

It may be used independently or in conjunction with western medicine therapies and treatments. Acupuncture should be performed by a trained vet and should not be considered an alternate to medication in severe cases.

arthritis in senior cats

Is Stem Cell Therapy In Cats For Arthritis A Common Procedure?

Stem cell therapy for cats with arthritis is not yet a common procedure. While the therapy has shown promising results in dogs, horses, and humans, there is still limited research on its effectiveness in cats.

However, some veterinary clinics and research institutions are offering stem cell therapy as a treatment option for cats with arthritis.

It’s important to note that the procedure can be expensive and may require multiple treatments to see results and there are potential risks and side effects.

The process involves extracting a small amount of fat tissue from the cat’s abdomen or back using a syringe. The fat tissue is then processed in a lab to isolate and extract the stem cells. Once the stem cells are harvested, they are injected back into the cat’s body in the affected joint(s).

The injected stem cells then work to reduce inflammation and promote the growth of healthy tissue in the joint. This can help improve mobility, reduce pain, and slow the progression of arthritis.

It’s important to note that stem cell therapy is not a cure for arthritis and may not work for all cats.

Maine Coon breed of cat

Are Some Cat Breeds More Likely To Suffer From Arthritis?

Certain breeds of cats are more prone to developing arthritis than others. Here are some examples:

  1. Maine Coon
    This breed is known for its large size and weight, which can put extra stress on their joints.
  2. Persian
    Persians are prone to hip dysplasia, a condition that can lead to arthritis.
  3. Siamese
    Siamese cats are prone to patellar luxation, a condition where the kneecap dislocates from its normal position and can cause degenerative joint disease over time.
  4. Abyssinian
    This breed is prone to developing spinal arthritis, which can cause pain and mobility issues.
  5. Scottish Fold
    Scottish Folds have a genetic mutation that affects the development of their cartilage, which can lead to arthritis.
Scottish Fold Cat

Home Adjustments For Cats With Arthritis

Apart from the treatment, you can make these changes in your home to help your feline friend.

These small changes can alleviate the suffering of an arthritic cat, a considerable amount.

Give your cat soft and supportive bedding.

Food and water bowls, and the litter box should be placed where your cat can reach them easily, ideally without having to go up any stairs.

The cat’s litter box needs to have a low entry point for easy access.

Help your cat groom areas which are now hard for her to reach.

Massage your cat’s joints using soft strokes when the cat relaxed.

Provide pet steps to help your cat reach hard to access, but still favorite places.

vector - Two cats reading the paper,
I don’t know about you dear but I am feeling a bit creaky these days!

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