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Arthritis in Cats

Osteoarthritis in cats can be much more difficult to recognise than in dogs. It remains overall an under diagnosed disease although there is an increasing awareness for it in recent years leading to more cats being treated. International Cat Care estimates that as many as 60 to 90 percent of all cats over the age of 12 suffer from arthritis.

It is a chronic disease with loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the end of the bones in a movable joint. When the cartilage wears away the bone is exposed and when the two bone ends in the joint touch each other it leads to pain and inflammation.

In cats the cause of the arthritis often cannot be identified as readily in dogs, but causes similarly can include old age wear, trauma and congenital abnormalities (e.g. hip dysplasia in Maine Coons). Obesity is a predisposing factor.

Recognising arthritis in your cat can require careful observation of your pet. Cats are more likely to limit their activity to compensate for their painful joints rather than show obvious signs of pain. Signs can include but are not limited to;

  • Reduced overall mobility
  • Changes in grooming behaviour
  • Missing the litter box
  • Unexplained aggression or irritability
  • More difficulty jumping, climbing or going up stairs
  • Sleeping more
  • Stiffness or lameness

So, what do you do if you suspect arthritis in your cat? Firstly, we advise a visit to your veterinarian for an arthritis check. This may involve observing your cat walking or jumping, a palpation of their limbs and spine and moving their joints through a range of motions. In some cases, examination and/or X-rays under sedation may be advised as cats can sometimes hide their discomfort by tensing their muscles during an examination. If your cat is diagnosed with arthritis there is a lot we can do to help manage your cat’s disease. Treatment options include:

1.  Diet & Weight Loss

‘Royal Canin Feline Mobility’ support contains a synergistic blend of green lipped muscle powder, glucosamine, chondroitin, EPA and DHA to reduce the clinical signs of arthritis. ‘Hills k/d + mobility’ contains glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids to help with joint health. It also is suitable for older cats with declining kidney function (a common problem in older cats) due to controlled phosphorus and low sodium levels. Both diets help build lean muscle also to treat or prevent obesity and reduce added strain on joints. Obesity is a strong contributory factor, so weight reduction or maintenance of an ideal weight is essential to reduce stress on the joints.

2. Oral supplements

Seaflex contains patented Sea Chondroitin plus Glucosamine HCL. Chondroitin & Glucosamineare key nutrients that makeup cartilage. They can assist in the natural repair and regeneration of your pet’s cartilage.  Glyde chews can also be used for cats ‘off label’ as all the ingredients (New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin) have been shown to be safe for cats.  Please discuss the correct dose for your cat with your veterinarian.                      

3.  Exercise

Short, gentle play sessions can be helpful in some cases of arthritis in cats but if your cat has never engaged in this these will need to be introduced slowly. Any energetic play involving leaping, jumping and twisting should be avoided.

4.  Chondroprotective Drugs: Zydax injections

Chondroprotective agents work to stimulate cartilage repair and inhibit ongoing damage. Zydax, a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug targets cartilage degeneration and inflammation. As with other chondroprotective drugs available on the Australian market it is ‘off label’ for cats but has been utilised effectively in many cases. It is administered as a course of 4 weekly injections with your veterinarian. After this, a booster course is recommended every 6 months or more frequent single injections if required. 


5. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are commonly used pain-relieving medications that reduce inflammation in the body. There are several very effective NSAIDs formulated for veterinary patients. The most commonly used for cats is a once daily liquid medication. Routine blood and urine testing to monitor organ function (liver and kidneys) are recommended for careful long-term usage and before commencing treatment. It is important to never use medications designed for relieving pain in people as an alternative as some of these can be highly toxic to animals. Paracetamol in particular is often fatal when administered to cats. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if NSAIDs may be a good option for your cat.

6.  Stem Cell Therapy

This is a relatively new area of treatment for veterinary patients and there are several different systems available. Research indicates effects are due to local down regulation of joint inflammation and promotion of tissue healing. We are happy to discuss the options available for your pet. 

Please feel free to contact the clinic on 03 8373 0301 and make an appointment to discuss any of these treatment options for your pet.

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