How Is Cat Arthritis Diagnosed
If a veterinarian suspects arthritis, theyll review your cat’s medical history and complete a physical exam. The veterinarian will specifically look for:
- Visible joint deformity
- Grating when the cat moves its joints
- Fluid in the joints
- Joint instability
To confirm an arthritis diagnosis, your veterinarian will complete an X-ray to take pictures of the inside of the cat’s body and especially their bones.
Sowhat Are Some Of The Subtle Symptoms Of Arthritis In A Cat:
Sometimes the signs are EXTREMELY subtle. If you think your cat might be in pain or your see signs, alert your veterinarian. A physical examination and x-rays can lead to an accurate diagnosis. Many treatments options exist, including supplements, medication and laser therapy.
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What Causes Arthritis In Cats
Like humans, cats have cartilage between the bones in their joints, which helps cushion the impact as they move around. This cartilage can deteriorate as cats get older causing inflammation and pain.
In addition to aging, there are other influences on arthritis in cats:
- Cats who have had an infection or injury, such as a fracture or dislocation, may be more likely to develop arthritis where the damage occurred.
- Cats with congenital abnormalities, like hip dysplasia, may develop arthritis in the affected area.
- Overweight and obese cats are prone to arthritis due to the added pressure those extra pounds can put on their joints.
Arthritis and joint pain arent the only issues linked to obesity, which is a growing problem for both cats and dogs. It can also result in heart disease, kidney and liver issues, joint pain, and illnesses, like diabetes. It is very important to help your cat maintain a healthy weight through appropriate diet and exercise.
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Could It Be Something Other Than Arthritis
Because the signs of arthritis can be similar to those of other medical conditions, the right diagnosis is important to make sure your pet receives the most effective treatment.
Vague signs, such as a general decrease in activity, could be the result of many diseases. But even more specific signs, such as periodic limping or a decrease in jumping, can be associated with other medical conditions including:
- Infectious arthritis caused by bacteria , viruses, fungi or other organisms.
- Immune-mediated arthritis .
- Cancer, typically involving the bone or cartilage.
- Conditions that cause muscle weakness or lethargy .
- Injuries to muscles, tendons or ligaments.
Inability To Control Elimination
Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urination. This can happen because of weakened urethral sphincter muscles, or secondary to other conditions, like diabetes or kidney disease. Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowels, and results in fecal incontinence.
Both are messy, annoying, and unsanitary conditions that decrease the wellbeing of everybody in the household. Furthermore, incontinence can lead to bedsores and worse in cats who lie in urine or feces because they cant move or wont move.
If a cat has untreatable urinary or fecal incontinence that is unmanageable or in conjunction with other terminal disease, then it may be time to consider euthanasia.
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Diagnosing Your Cat With Arthritis
Cats often hide painful conditions like OA from their owners and veterinarians alike. As a result, OA in cats is often underdiagnosed and undertreated until advanced stages of the disease begin leaving them in pain and potentially damaging the bond they have with their owners.
Osteoarthritis pain can be a serious health problem for your cat. Without treatment, the pain will continue to get worse. Helping your cat begins by talking with your veterinarian and coming up with a medical treatment plan to relieve your cats discomfort. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your cat and can often make the diagnosis of arthritis on the exam alone, or with the help of x-rays . Cats with OA may have varying signs and symptoms, and you and your veterinarian can work together to catch it in its earlier stages, to help get your cat ahead of the pain, rather than waiting to treat it.
Identify If Your Feline Friend Is Living With Arthritis:
If your cat has arthritis there are many new medications, special diets and supplements that will ease inflammation and pain to help your cat live a long and comfortable life. There are also things you can do at home to make your feline friend more comfortable. Provide soft, padded bedding, a step to jump on before jumping onto the bed, ensure they are warm and have a comfortable place to sleep. Discourage your cat from jumping and take care if they have access to outdoors as they may hurt themselves. Instead, encourage regular gentle exercise indoors using their favourite toy or scratching post. This will help maintain muscle-tone in their back and legs and help your cat to maintain a healthy weight.
It is not only arthritis that our senior cats can suffer from but as they get older they are prone to poor kidney function, obesity, cancer and other conditions.Book your feline friend in for a Senior Wellness Check with your local Greencross Vet for a comprehensive review of your cats health. Your vet will look for early signs of stiff joints and other age-related health issues plus tailor a wellness program to help your feline friend age gracefully.
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What Else Can I Do About Feline Arthritis
Excess weight can overburden already painful joints and also has been shown to contribute to cartilage deterioration. If your cat is overweight, talk with your vet about the best way to safely reduce the cats weight. Usually this involves feeding more canned food and less dry.
Exercise provides a two-fold benefit: it aids in weight loss and it helps keep arthritic joints from becoming stiff by increasing synovial fluid.
Warmth provides comfort for stiff, painful joints. You might provide a heated or thermal pet bed, or use a Snuggle Safe disk to supply safe warmth without electricity.We strongly recommend the use of Snuggle Safes over traditional electric heating pads. Even more appropriate would be radiant heat, like a reptile basking spot. We recommend ceramic heat elements which emit no light, only heat. You can create a microenvironment.
Large-breed dog beds usually provide thicker cushioning than cat beds, making them an excellent resting spot for your arthritic cat.
Be mindful of your cats changing needs. Perhaps you can add a litter box closer to the cats favorite napping spot, or add a feeding station on each floor so the cat doesnt have to climb the stairs to eat or get a drink.
With a little special care, your arthritic cats can enjoy their senior years.
Identify If Your Cat Is Living With Arthritis
Our feline friends are known to be quite active and agile but as they age it is inevitable that they will start to slow down. Many cats can remain very healthy and vibrant during their senior years, but there are times when chronic disease and arthritis can affect their quality of life.
Arthritis is a chronic, painful, degenerative condition that can develop gradually over time, affecting one or more joints . Its causes inflammation and pain of the joints. Arthritis can affect any pet at any age, negatively impacting a pets quality of life and preventing them from enjoying simple, daily activities such as walking, running or playing.
Most cats are classified as a senior feline once they are over seven years of age and this is when they can develop age-related conditions such as arthritis. Its not always easy to recognise if your cat is in pain or suffering from arthritis. Many cats hide their discomfort so it can be hard to tell when they are uncomfortable. Cats do experience real pain with arthritis, comparable to the pain experienced by humans with this disease. The good news is that there many things we can do to help. The first step is to recognise when something isnt quite right with your pet.
There are some changes in their behaviour that can help you identify if your cat is living with arthritis.
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How Can You Prevent It
If your cat is overweight, even at age two, youâre courting arthritis with the joint stress that extra weight exerts. Consider that with each additional ounce your cat weighs, any future arthritis will be compounded that much more. In fact, weight control is the most important factor in limiting arthritis in catsâapart from individual genetics, of course, over which we have no control.
Common Signs And Symptoms Of Arthritis In Cats
Cats who suffer from arthritis will naturally avoid any activities that make their pain worse. You may notice that your cat no longer jumps up on the couch, goes exploring, climbs stairs, or plays with the same enthusiasm as before. A cat with painful joints may even avoid being touched, held, or petted, to the point of displaying aggression toward humans and other pets.
Has your cat demonstrated inappropriate elimination or incontinence lately? The underlying problem may have nothing to do with urinary or neurological issues, and everything to do with limited joint mobility. A cat who cannot get to the litter box easily will most likely have accidents.
Take a close look at your unhappy cats weight-bearing joints. You may actually see signs of swelling or deformation that indicate arthritis. Even if you dont, however, you need to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian. X-rays and other diagnostic methods can confirm a case of feline arthritis.
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Diagnosing Arthritis In Cats
Diagnosis is relatively straightforward. You usually notice stiffness, a limp, slowness or an inability to jump.
Since this is generally a geriatric problem in cats, a geriatric workup including blood work is usually recommended to make sure the cat does not have some underlying metabolic disease, causing slowness or a change in gait.
X-rays are also beneficial, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other problems that cause stiffness, pain or lameness.
What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In Cats
Cats are masters of hiding discomfort and pain, so often do not demonstrate obvious signs that you might expect. They restrict their own activity to minimise the use of the sore joints and so tend not to show the same signs of arthritis as other animals. In particular, cats uncommonly show overt signs of limping or pain associated with arthritis.
Major signs of arthritis in cats associated with arthritis are:
- Reduced mobility
- Reluctance, hesitance or refusal to jump up or down
- Jumping up to lower surfaces than previously
- Jumping up or down less frequently
- Difficulty going up or down stairs
- Stiffness in the legs, especially after sleeping or resting for a while occasionally there may be obvious lameness
- Difficulty using the litter tray
- Difficulty going through the cat flap
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Symptoms Of Arthritis In Cats
Signs of arthritis in cats can include:
- Difficulty jumping or using the stairs
- More prominent shoulder blades
- Hiding away or sleeping more than usual
- Unkempt or matted fur especially along the back and around the bottom, because your cat will find it difficult or painful to twist to groom these areas
- Swollen or hot joints
- Being a bit more grumpy than usual, especially when you go to touch them.
Signs of arthritis can be hard to spot as they can be subtle and come on gradually. It can be helpful to think back to what your cat was like a few months or even years ago when trying to think if they are showing any of these signs.
How Is Cat Arthritis Treated
There are a few different treatment options available for cats with arthritis:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . The most common treatment for cat arthritis, NSAIDs are prescribed by a licensed veterinarian who can help determine the duration and type of treatment.
- Pain management medication. In some cases, cats will be given painkilling drugs in cases where non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not appropriate or not sufficient.
- Injectable joint protectants. This treatment helps relieve arthritic pain. It involves a veterinarian giving injections of glycosaminoglycans every four weeks or so to the cat.
- Acupuncture. Although the studies regarding acupuncture for cat arthritis are limited, some cats may benefit from it. Acupuncture is an old healing practice in Chinese medicine where needles are placed at specific points in the body to relieve pain.
- Cold laser therapy or photobiomodulation . This noninvasive and painless treatment allows a vet to move a small device that emits therapeutic light waves across your pets body, on top of their fur. This type of treatment has been shown to ease pain and decrease inflammation.
If you suspect your cat has arthritis, a licensed veterinarian can help determine the best treatment option for your cat.
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Give Your Cat A Comfortable Bed
- Place a selection of beds around your home for your cat to choose from. Remember to put them at several at different heights, your cat may not be able to jump as high up as they used to.
- Orthopaedic memory foam beds can be really comfortable for cats with arthritis.
- A heated bed can naturally help sooth your cats joints.
Signs Of Osteoarthritis In Cats
Cats dont show pain like we expect them to. Its part of their nature to be subtle, says Joyce Login, DVM, CPH, Veterinary Medical Lead, Chronic Pain Portfolio at Zoetis. If they were to show pain in the wild, theyd be somebodys lunch, so theyre very good at hiding it.
But that doesnt mean its impossible to spot. While your cat isnt likely to limp or cry out in pain, Login says you can watch for these behavioral signs of osteoarthritis in cats:
- Difficulty jumping up on furniture
- Difficulty jumping down from furniture
- Difficulty going up and down the stairs
- Difficulty chasing moving objects
- Difficulty running
- Inappropriate elimination
- Increased irritability
These changes in behavior can be easy to dismiss as normal aging or even to miss altogether. Because cats hide their painespecially in the veterinary clinicyour observations from home are a crucial part of diagnosing arthritis in cats. If that feels like a lot of pressure, Login has some tools to make your job easier.
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What Kind Of Behavior Changes Might I See In My Cat That Could Be A Sign Shes In Pain
One of the most common pain-associated behavior changes we see in aging cats is a decrease in grooming and self-care. Cats are, by nature, extremely finicky about keeping themselves clean. Watch any conscious cat for longer than a few minutes, and you are likely to see it cleaning some part of its body.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronically painful ailments in cats, affecting more than 90% of cats 10 years of age and older. Spinal arthritis makes it uncomfortable to twist and turn, so grooming the body, especially the hind end, becomes difficult. OA in the lower spine and hips can make the area over the pelvis and upper rear legs tender. When grooming the lower back, pelvis, and rear legs becomes painful, the cat simply stops taking care of its coat. Areas of the cat’s body that are not groomed become matted, and the cat develops an overall unkempt appearance. When we try to help them out by using a comb or brush, they tend to object.
“One of the most common pain-associated behavior changes in aging cats is a decrease in grooming and self-care.”
If you notice your cat developing matted hair or flaky skin, make an appointment with your veterinarian, as this can be an important signal of pain. Because cats like to be clean, a dirty cat is not normal. If your cat has trouble grooming even after its pain is well managed, consider having a groomer give it a ‘lion cut’ to make the body hair short and easy to keep clean.
Can Cat Dementia Be Prevented
The brain is known for its neuroplasticity, which means it can continue to change throughout life and be easily shaped by experiences. This is why mental enrichment can form an important part of delaying onset and slowing progression of cat dementia.
Introduce enrichment activities that are mentally and physically stimulating, but suitable for your cats personality and take into account health problems such as osteoarthritis. Cat play can be an important part of this, especially if your cat lives mostly indoors and there are a range of cat toys available designed to cater for your pets natural chasing instincts. Other cats may prefer food-motivated games such as puzzle feeders, but make sure to replace food regularly.
For more advice on keeping your cat happy in their older years, check out our guide on caring for your senior cat. If youre not sure whether your cat is a senior yet, this guide helps you explore some of the less obvious signs of ageing.
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