If you live with a feline you will know they are all telepathic, a little like Star Trek’s Spock. They use their minds to ensure we’re ready and available, day or night, to enact their feline will.
However, when it comes to illness, they become closed and withdrawn, with only subtle changes in behaviour indicating something might possibly be amiss. Why are they so mysterious?
Our feline friends are the masters of disguise as for them, in a predatory world, it pays to keep your cards close to your chest.
For this reason, osteoarthritis in cats is now the most commonly undiagnosed disease we see in veterinary medicine. As many as 1 in 3 cats suffer chronically from osteoarthritis. The majority of these never receive treatment and live a quiet life of chronic, debilitating pain.
Primarily, osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear over time. Some studies show more than 90% of cats over 12 years are affected, but it can develop in cats as young as two years old. Other factors that may increase the risk of arthritis include injury and trauma to joints (such as a sprain or fracture), an infection, genetics, and being weight-challenged.
Often the first step in diagnosing arthritis is recognising the signs at home. Watch these videos to check for the signs:
Changes in play
Changes in activity
Changes in getting up on furniture
Use this check list to see if your feline friend may be secretly hiding symptoms:
- 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 getting in our out of the cat flap
- Increased time spent resting or sleeping
- Not hunting or exploring the outdoor environment as frequently
- Sleeping in different, easier to access sites
- Reduced interaction and playing less with people or other animals
- Reduced frequency or time spent grooming
- Matted and scurfy coat
- Sometimes over grooming of painful joints
- Overgrown claws due to lack of activity and reduced sharpening of claws
- More irritable or grumpy when handled or stroked
- More irritable or grumpy on contact with other animals
- Spending more time alone
- Avoiding intact with people and/or animals
The good news!
Treatment-wise, once we have diagnosed osteoarthritis through a full physical exam which may include blood tests and radiographs, we can do lots to help.
- Use of soft, comfortable beds placed in easily accessible, quiet, draft-free locations – use of ‘igloo beds’ can make an older cat feel warm and secure
- Provision of a series of ‘steps’ or a ramp to allow cats to access favoured higher sites (eg, the sofa, a windowsill, the cat flap etc.)
- Make sure the cat flap is very easy to open, and if necessary tie it open so the cat doesn’t need to push through
- Always have a litter tray inside and one that has at least one low side for easy access
- Make sure food and water are easily accessible, at floor level or with steps up to higher levels
- Make sure the cat doesn’t have to go up or down stairs to access food, water, or litter trays
- Spend time grooming and cleaning an arthritic cat as this may be difficult for them
- Overgrown claws need regular cutting
We recommend considering non steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment, meloxicam (Metacam) as a safe and effective treatment long term pain relief in osteoarthritic cats (dose and monitoring are important). For more information check out this great website explaining osteoarthritis in cats.
We also find supplements and diets with glucosamines, chondroitins and essential fatty acids (omega 3) very beneficial, along with a course of anti-arthritic injections.
Recently, laser therapy has shown great results, and is well-tolerated in our feline sufferers, so if you are seeing signs of osteoarthritis, we encourage you to give us a call on 09 377 6667 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about we can do to help your cat feel better.