Feline Arthritis FAQs

While veterinarians have diagnosed canine arthritis for many years, until recently, many professionals believed cats were less likely to develop this painful, degenerative joint condition. Fortunately, cat owners and veterinarians are now paying more attention to arthritis and the role this condition plays in their favorite felines’ overall health—particularly as they age. This joint condition does not discriminate by breed, and arthritis affects more cats than you may think—a lot more. Osteoarthritis (OA) is now estimated to affect between 70% and 90% of cats older than 12 years of age. Read our Village Veterinary Hospital team’s responses to common feline arthritis questions to learn the information you need to identify feline arthritis signs and treatment options. 

Question: Why wasn’t feline arthritis often diagnosed in the past?

Answer: Historically, cats have likely developed OA as commonly as dogs. However, feline arthritis has been less commonly diagnosed for the following reasons:

  • Cats are experts at hiding their pain — Cats have a deep natural instinct to hide their pain because, in the wild, a cat in visible discomfort is viewed as weak, making them more vulnerable to predators. Cats’ pain signs are much more subtle than those of their canine counterparts, making the identification of your feline friend’s condition challenging.
  • Cats visit the veterinarian less frequently than dogs — Overall, veterinarians evaluate cats’ health status far less frequently than they do dogs’. Some owners dread the hassle of transporting  their freaked-out feline to the veterinarian, and managing them during their examination. Other owners assume that their cat is healthy if they aren’t showing obvious illness or injury signs. People whose cats are indoor only sometimes mistakenly assume that their feline friend is protected because they don’t go outside. However, indoor cats are equally likely to develop arthritis as those who venture out. 
  • Cats can be challenging to examine — Most cats dislike being physically handled during  veterinary examinations. A cat’s squirming and pulling away can prevent their veterinarian from performing a thorough examination, which can also make their health care professional question whether their feline patient is pulling away because they are in pain or simply do not want to be touched. Because your cat may cower and refuse to move during their examination, your observations of your cat’s behavior changes at home become very important information to tell your veterinarian to potentially diagnose your feline friend’s arthritis. 

Fortunately, veterinarians currently better understand feline OA’s prevalence. In addition, when a cat owner learns that arthritis is an extremely common, painful disease that can be treated, they are more motivated to ensure their feline friend receives routine veterinary care. 

What causes feline arthritis?

OA affects cats the same way it affects people and dogs. This disease is a degenerative condition that causes the break down of cartilage that normally cushions the impact between a joint’s bones. Eventually, the bones begin rubbing against each other, causing the affected cat to experience pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility. Without treatment, the condition worsens over time, making early detection and prompt treatment essential to managing the disease’s progression, maintaining your cat’s mobility, and relieving their pain. Aging cats more commonly develop arthritis, but all cats are susceptible. In addition to age, a cat’s arthritis can risk increase because of these other factors:

  • Genetics  — Breeds who have a greater genetic arthritis disposition include Maine coons, Scottish fold cats, Persian cats, and Siamese cats.
  • Injury — Injury or trauma can damage cartilage, resulting in arthritis later in life, adversely affecting mobility. 
  • Excess weight — Extra weight puts excess stress on a cat’s joints and cartilage, which can lead to arthritis and joint health problems.

What are feline arthritis signs?

Most cats conceal obvious OA pain indications until their disease has progressed to the point that their pain becomes unbearable, and their compensating behavior changes become impossible to ignore. Cat owners commonly attribute these behaviors to aging, but often the signs indicate advanced disease and a cat’s extreme discomfort. Cats’ most common feline arthritis signs include the following behavior changes:

  • Taking stairs one at a time, or differently than in the past
  • No longer using favorite high perches
  • Difficulty grooming, having unkempt fur
  • Accidents outside the litter box
  • Decreased movement and activity
  • Decreased play
  • Increased irritability or hiding

To help prevent your cat’s prolonged silent suffering, ensure you schedule their regular veterinary wellness visits. Through these preventive care examinations, your veterinarian can detect early arthritis signs before your cat displays behavior changes at home. 

How is feline arthritis treated?

Arthritis has no cure, and treatment depends on the disease’s severity. However, your veterinarian will recommend numerous ways to manage your cat’s pain and slow the disease’s progression. Feline arthritis treatment plans often include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, to decrease joint inflammation
  • Pain medications, to make your cat more comfortable
  • Joint supplements, to repair damaged cartilage and replenish joint fluid
  • Laser therapy treatments, to decrease inflammation and pain
  • Rehabilitation exercises, to help your cat regain muscle mass and mobility

Feline arthritis affects your cat’s behavior and lifestyle, causing a decrease in their activity level and mobility, and negatively affecting their quality of life. If you are concerned that your cat may be suffering from arthritis, or need to schedule their routine wellness exam, schedule an appointment with our Village Veterinary Hospital team.

By |2023-04-20T18:20:21+00:00April 20th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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