Feline Arthritis, a silent epidemic, affects most senior cats
Feline arthritis, a silent epidemic, affects 80 to 90%t of all senior cats, and 33% of cats of all ages.
It’s painful, causes decreased mobility, and can be debilitating. Things that were once easy and second nature become difficult, if not impossible to do.
Our Pink Collar has arthritis, and it is progressing. She is in pain, and she’s been telling us it’s not fun, and she hurts. It’s harder for her to get up to the counter with her water bowl. She struggles when she goes up and down stairs, even missing a step, here and there. Some days, she even has a hard time jumping onto the sofa.
Is it in her elbow and the wrist in the front leg; the hip, the knee and the ankle in the back leg; and the smaller joints between vertebrae, both in the neck and the back? It could be in some or all of these.
Her human has arthritis in her knees, so we can well appreciate how painful it can be, say nothing about making you think about getting down on all fours to wash the floor or weed the garden.
Cats are masters at hiding illness and pain
While there’s a lot of talk and research into dogs with arthritis, cats have not gotten that same attention, and it’s only in the past few years that the subject has come to the forefront.
While the majority of dogs with arthritis show some lameness, only about 15 percent of cats appear to be lame. The most common sign your cat has arthritis is their reluctance or inability to jump up or down. We have put out crates and boxes making it easier for Pink Collar to take a small hop, rather than a big leap to the counter, sofa, and even the cat tree.
We all know cats are masters at hiding illness and pain. This well could be hard-wired into survival mode dating back thousands of years. Because of this, responsible cat owners must learn what to look for.
If you think your cat has asthma or any other health issues, schedule a visit with your veterinarian immediately. The contents of this blog post are for informational purposes only, and should not be used in place of professional advise from your veterinarian.
Here are 10 signs your cat may have feline arthritis, a silent epidemic:
- Reluctance or inability to jump up or down
- Difficulty rising from a resting position
- Personality changes from pain or inability to do what kitty used to do making them grumpy
- Decreased grooming because it’s harder to reach those extremities causing their fur to look unkempt
- More sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Eliminating outside the litter box
- Muscle atrophy and muscle loss in the affected leg
What is Feline Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation or irritation in one or several joints. It can affect the hips, knees or ankles. As arthritis progresses, the cartilage that covers the joints and works as a cushion between them, wears off, and instead of cartilage on cartilage, we end up with bone on bone. It’s a progressive disease worsening with age.
According to IDEXX’s The Health Network, while x-rays are a given to diagnose arthritis in dogs, that’s not so in cats because it doesn’t always show on the x-rays. My Pink Collar didn’t have x-rays. She’s been exhibiting symptoms for some time, but only recently, has she let us know that she’s in significant pain. She’s also losing weight with a lot more mobility issues.
Types of feline arthritis
There are different types of arthritis, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention them. While humans get arthritis for no reason, some research indicates there is a reason pets get arthritis, calling it secondary arthritis. Here are a few of those reasons:
- Trauma, or a torn ligament (not uncommonly the ACL), or a loose kneecap, or bad hips
- Hip dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joints)
- Patella luxation (dislocation of the knee cap)
- Septic arthritis due to an infection or a hyperactive immune system. Pink Collar’s blood tests are showing signs of the hyperactive immune system. Our vet has hoped having 3 teeth out last summer would reduce those levels.
Are certain cat breeds more susceptible to arthritis?
Research is not conclusive; however, it is believed the following breeds are more susceptible to getting feline arthritis.
- Maine Coon
- Scottish Fold, are particularly prone to severe arthritis affecting multiple joints due to an abnormality of cartilage that occurs in the breed
- Devon Rex
While there’s no cure, Feline Arthritis is not a death sentence. It’s part of the natural aging process.
Here are a few things you can try to alleviate the pain, making your cat more comfortable and improving her quality of life.
- Weight loss can help reduce the stress and pressure on the joints. Obesity may be a contributing factor to arthritis, and Pink Collar has always been one to not stray too far from the food bowl. There’s no doubt she and her human could stand to lose a few pounds.
- Possible use of nutritional supplements to help replenish cartilage. Our vet recommended Dasuquin for Cats. We cut the capsules in half, and evenly distribute them over 2 bowls of wet cat food each morning. It won’t hurt the cats the younger cats, and by spreading it out. If the cat moves to another bowl, which they always do, they will be getting equal benefit from the supplement.
- Prescription veterinary pain medications. We just started using Metacam, and Pink Collar showed dramatic improvement over just 3 days. She’s now getting .5 mg every 3 days, and we hope she’ll continue to reap the benefits of less pain. We find she’s more agile, and it’s an easier leap to get onto the couch. You should talk to your vet about what pain medication would be best for your cat.
How Can I Make My Arthritic Cat More Comfortable?
Where you cannot cure arthritis, there are a few additional things you can do to help keep your cat more comfortable:
- Create stairs with boxes, crates, or other means
- Strategically place chairs for kitty to be able to still lounge in those higher places. Cats just love to be up high viewing the world below them
- Give your cat a cozy warm blanket or cat bed where she’s not confined but can snuggle up and be warm.
- Have a grooming mat and when petting your cat give her some extra TLC by helping remove that old unwanted hair.
- While you are at it, give her a gentle message. We humans love them and our cats do to.
- Make sure your cat can easily access the food and water bowls
- Get a litter box with a lower entry spot if needed so your cat can easily get in and out of the litter box.
There’s no doubt, feline arthritis is a silent epidemic in the cat world, especially for senior cats. Help your cat manage this chronic illness, and develop a treatment plan with your veterinarian.
Does your cat have arthritis? Have you tried pain medication? Have you tried supplements? Have you made changes to your household to make it easier for your cat to continue to enjoy their favorite places? Please share what’s worked and what hasn’t.