Let’s address a common but often overlooked health condition in felines: Arthritis.
Cats are experts at disguising their pain, and because of this the signs of feline arthritis are often subtle and difficult to spot. Let’s talk about arthritis in cats, what can cause it, the signs to look for and what you can do at home to help minimize their pain.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis, also sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA), refers to the inflammation and weakening of one or more joints. Similar to humans, arthritis in cats is typically part of the aging process. As the cat gets older, the cartilage between bones deteriorates. Joints in the body become less flexible, leading to pain and stiffness.
Did You Know?
Up to 33% of cats (of all ages) suffer from arthritis and approximately 90% of cats over the age of 12 hurt in silence.
What can cause cat arthritis?
Arthritis is usually a result of the ongoing wear and tear and instability in the joints, however other factors such as injury, genetic makeup, infection, autoimmune disorder and cancer can also affect the progression. Although arthritis can affect one or more joints anywhere in the body, the most common joints affected in cats are the elbows, hip and spine.
Symptoms of cat arthritis include:
Reduced Mobility: Stiffness, not going up or down stairs, reluctance to jump up onto surfaces, making smaller jumps, difficulty or a change in posturing when getting into a litter box.
Reduced Activity: Increased time sleeping, hesitant to play, unwilling to explore, decreased appetite, trouble getting up or laying down.
Changes in Hygiene: Over grooming or licking a particular area, reduced time spent grooming, matted or scruffy coat, going outside the litter box.
Changes in Mood: Irritable when handled, increased aggression or biting, avoiding contact with people or pets.
How to help your cat deal with their pain.
Unfortunately, once your cat is diagnosed with arthritis, there is no way to cure the condition. The veterinarian and pet owner must work together to figure out ways to manage to alleviate symptoms.
Nutrition: Normalizing body condition is critical. Talk with your vet about prescribing a nutritional plan in order to accomplish this goal. There are certain foods that can support the joints while helping to normalize body weight and condition.
Maintain Weight: Sticking to the nutritional plan is extremely important in order to keep your feline in the best of shape. Obesity is a major factor for arthritis. Keeping your cat slim may not stop the problem from developing, but it will lessen its effects.
Comfort: There are simple things cat owners can do around the home that will provide their furry friend with comfort and mobility. A few ideas include: provide a soft padded bed, raise food and water dishes, avoid non-skid floor surfaces, a ramp or stool/step for getting onto higher surfaces and making access to their litterbox as easy as possible for them. Giving your cat DML laser treatments twice a day is also a safe and effective way to lessen their pain and discomfort.
Nail Care: Regular nail trims can greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and mobility. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, find a local groomer or speak to your vet about having it done at their office. Scratching posts are a great way to help keep their nails trimmed naturally too!
Can feline arthritis be prevented?
The best way to try to prevent arthritis in cats is to maintain a lean body condition starting from their kitten years and through adulthood. Growth abnormalities and injuries cannot always be avoided or predicted, so sadly, even our best efforts may not be enough to avoid feline arthritis completely. With that said, good nutrition and regular exercise are key to preventing or at least delaying arthritis!