Managing Feline Arthritis Treatment

Feline Arthritis Treatment and diagnosis can be difficult.  30% of cats have arthritis by the time they are 3yo so there is a lot you can do to improve the remaining years. 

How well can you spot an arthritic cat?

  • How much of that cat’s crabbiness is due to pain?

  • Can you differentiate the anger from the agony? The fractious from the frightened feline?  

  • Are you even aware of the significance of pain in on the reactions of your feline patients?  

    Read on, and find out how helping your feline patients feel better, results in a Cat Friendly Practice.

Cats are great athletes, and it is only recently that enough of them are living long enough to show us the symptoms of degenerative skeletal diseases.  

And Dis-Eases they are!

Chronic pain is recognised as a great debilitator and a recognised trigger for depression in people. I think that the ‘obesity epidemic’ in cats is going to turn out to be due to unrelenting painful arthritis, and ‘stress’ (restricted hunting opportunities is a high price that pampered cats pay for their safety and longevity).

How to diagnose arthritis in cats

First, acknowledging it exists is a huge step forward.

And understanding there is no objective measure of pain – my pain is not the same as your pain, and if you think it hurts, then it does.  

Management of acute (especially surgically inflicted) pain is all the buzz.  However, even in people, 90% of chronic pain is not managed well. So in cats, where 30% have arthritis by the age of 3 years old (and 90% by the age of 10 years), it would appear to be a very lucky cat that is on any pain relief at all.

Second, understanding also that there is no correlation between radiographs, infrared detection or (probably) MRI scans to the amount or location of actual pain.

The only observable indicator is movement (or lack thereof) and resistance to manipulation.  

If a cat is already tense, and in pain, and the adrenalin is surging, you are not going to get any real indications of where and what is hurting.  Adrenalin will let you (human) walk on a broken leg if you need to. 

How clipping nails can help you assess arthritis

How the owner can help you diagnose

You have to ask the owner –

  • can the cat can jump?
  • how high?
  • has she started pausing before doing so or going by alternative routes to favourite spots?

Sometimes elbow problems make it hard for cats to go downstairs.  Running around on the flat ground is NOT an indicator of good spinal health – cats can compensate for reductions in range of movement invisibly.

Other useful arthritis cat indicators

The other two indiCATors of feline arthritis are

  • thickened nails (less power in the tendons to shred the nails off)
  • a coat that looks ‘tufty’ (especially around the lower back and haunches) because the cat can no longer bend around to groom the hair out.
  • And final proof - response to therapy.  

Yes, you can just see whether the cat is seen to move better – and be less crabby – by putting them on appropriate pain medicCATion.

Feline arthritic medication options

You might want to know what a cat’s kidneys are doing before putting them on NSAIDS, and you might have to juggle cortisone with opiates or gabapentin, cartrophen or even just more pred, but it is only by assessing the cat’s response that you will know if the cat has arthritis pain.  

If there is no change in mobility or activity levels, then the cat is probably not in pain!

Sometimes, supplements like high doses of Omega-3 (as in Hills j/d, eukanuba mobility diet and straight out fish oil supplements or the Vetalogica chicken version – Omegajoint) is all that is needed to take the edge off the pain so movement is unrestricted.  

I also think acupuncture works, and massage/rehab physio (though not many people are doing that to cats yet!) most likely do. 

Meet "Tuesday", a severely arthritic cat

Tuesday is clearly a cat in pain but this case study demonstrates conclusively the impact Aquapuncture has.

Learn more about the role food can take in managing arthritis in cats

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