This article about arthritis in senior cats is written by Dr Ali Raza a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Veterinary Sciences.
Arthritis is a common problem in cats. In most pets, 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 will cover all the aspects of arthritis in old cats. We will talk about signs of arthritis, its causes, and different measures that you can take to improve the quality of life of your senior cat suffering from arthritis.
How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Arthritis?
The most obvious signs of arthritis are pain and difficulty moving.
A cat will be reluctant to move and even carry out normal activities. 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 signs
· 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, loss of interest in play
· Irritation from touch during petting due to pain
· Difficulty in 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
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. Ends of 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 pain of joint.
Related: What are some of the tell tale signs of your cat aging? It tends to creep up. There are signs that you will recognize.
Multiple factors can make your cat more likely to suffer from arthritis. Following are some factors
It is one of the most important factors to consider when diagnosing arthritis. Older cats are more likely to suffer from arthritis.
Weight Of The Cat
Obese and overweight cats have more chances of suffering from arthritis. More weight on the joint means more strain and increased risk of arthritis.
A nutritionally rich and balanced diet helps your cat live a long healthy life. A diet low in minerals and nutrients can make your cat weak. This affects his immune system and he can suffer from several diseases including arthritis.
Some cats are genetically predisposed to arthritis.
In addition there are other factors to consider such as a previous fracture, injury, abnormal joint development or orthopedic surgery.
What Can You Do For Your Senior Cat With Arthritis?
Pets are family and it’s heart breaking to see your cat suffer from arthritis. Following are some steps that you can take to ease the suffering of your arthritic cat.
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 pain. Also, 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 so it is advised that weight should never exceed the recommended weight limit in the first place. A balanced diet with adequate exercise help your cat stay fit and healthy.
Exercising your cat is one of the best ways to keep her fit. It prevents obesity and strengthens her immune system. Daily walk and a little exercise should be incorporated in the routine of your pet.
Exercise strengthens your cat’s muscles, cartilages and ligaments. Even if your cat is suffering from arthritis, you should not quit exercising. A little physical activity is helpful for arthritic cats as well. Make sure you don’t overdo this as it can result in pain and swollen joints.
Diet is an important factor in the overall health of your cat. Give your cat the recommended portion of food so she doesn’t become overweight. Food should contain a healthy mix of different nutrients.
If you want to give treats to your cat, they should be given in small amounts. Most treats are quite high in calories. It is suggested that you should reduce the portion size of food to compensate for the treats.
Related: Cat food bowls raised from the floor will make a huge difference to the comfort of your senior, arthritic cat. Read more in this article.
There are many supplements and diets available for old arthritic cats. These diets contain ingredients that can strengthen the cartilages of your cat. 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 you a specialized diet for weight management in your cat.
There are a few treatment options available for a cat suffering from arthritis.
Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
The use of NSAIDs is the most common method for treating arthritis in cats. They reduce the inflammation at the site of tissue damage and relieve the pain. Managing the inflammation can slow down the joint degeneration. NSAIDs should only be used when prescribed by your vet and only for the recommended duration to minimize the risk of side effects.
Long term use of NSAIDs can lead to several side effects. Gastrointestinal problems are most commonly seen in senior cats after giving NSAIDs over long time.
Supplemental Analgesic Drugs
In some cats, when NSAIDs are not sufficient or not appropriate they are given alternative pain-killing drugs. These drugs include
Tramadol, Amantadine, Buprenorphine, Gabapentin
However, the use of these drugs should be carried out under supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
Injectable Joint Protectants
This treatment option includes administering the injections of glycosaminoglycan every four weeks to the cat. They help to relieve the pain.
Acupuncture can help to ease the pain related to arthritis.
In this procedure, sterile needles are placed at selected acupuncture points. This increases the blood flow, reduces painful inflammation, promotes healing and improves 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.
Related: What do you need to look for when getting a new bed for your elderly cat? This article gives you all the details.
Apart from the treatment, you can make these changes in your home to help your arthritic friend. These small changes can alleviate the suffering of an arthritic cat, a considerable amount.
Give your cat soft and supportive bedding.
Food, water and litter box should be placed where your cat can reach them easily, ideally without having to go up any stairs.
The 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.
Related: The litter box needs to have a low entry point for your senior cat. Find out more in this article.