Caring for a cat with arthritis
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints caused by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage, which means that the bones rub against one another resulting in stiffness, pain and loss of movement. This can spark off changes in the bones themselves, causing bony spurs and thickening.
Arthritis is relatively common in cats. A vet can diagnose it by X-raying the joints, although changes in mobility and an inability to jump are the first signs. Veterinary medication, dietary supplements and prescription foods can help ease the condition, and some owners have found acupuncture eases stiffness.
Here, vet Dr Bradley Viner offers some advice about arthritis in cats:
Is arthritis common in cats?
We have traditionally believed that arthritis was uncommon in cats because they do not often show the long-term signs of lameness that other species, such as dogs, demonstrate when they are affected. But we now know that arthritis is common in cats — about 20 per cent of the whole population, and a much higher proportion of elderly cats, show signs of arthritis when their joints are radiographed.
What are the signs of arthritis in cats?
So if cats often don’t show the typical signs of lameness, how can we recognise the condition? It seems that affected cats can show a variety of signs, such as hiding away more than normal, crying if picked up, aggression, and running away if handled.
But by far the most common signs are an unwillingness to jump, and if they do, a reduction in the height they are prepared to leap. This means that the owner of an affected cat will often notice subtle changes in their pet’s behaviour patterns — but often not appreciate the cause.
How is arthritis diagnosed in cats?
Examining a cat for arthritis also gives very unreliable results. As we all know, cats can be very bloody-minded, and cats with perfectly normal joints may scream and resent having them manipulated, and others with badly affected ones may not show the signs of swelling and restricted movement that we would expect.
The only way to reliably diagnose arthritis in cats is to radiograph the joints (the elbow and the hip are most commonly affected). This does require an anaesthetic, or at least deep sedation, in order to position the cat correctly to get diagnostic radiographs.
How can I help my cat's arthritis?
It has been suspected for a long time that certain substances in the diet can help to control arthritis in a range of species. For a long time, cod liver oil has been used with varying effects — but cats have to be dosed very carefully, or it can have toxic effects.
More recently, supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, that help the cartilage that lines the bone within a joint to heal, have become available for cats. They are safe, and effective in mild cases, but require long-term daily dosing in either capsule or powder form, which many cat owners find challenging.
There are other dietary products that have been used to try and control arthritis in cats, such as those containing green-lipped mussel extracts, with varying success.
More recently, Hill’s Prescription Diet™ Feline j/d has become available, which has been shown to have a marked anti-inflammatory effect upon the joints. It achieves this by the balance of fish oils within the food, and in particular the balance between what are known as Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Because of the high levels of fish oil in the diet, it is highly palatable to most cats, but it is also quite high in calories, so care must be taken to ensure that cats on the food do not become overweight.
Of course, obesity is a major aggravating factor for arthritis. Keeping a cat slim may not stop the problem from developing, but it will lessen its effects. If an obese cat develops clinical signs of arthritis, weight reduction becomes a priority.
Can complementary treatment help arthritis in cats?
As arthritis is a very long-term problem, many owners are keen to try complementary treatments for their pets. This is fine providing that a vet has given the all-clear to use them. Acupuncture may well be of value, and there are some vets around the country who specialise in offering that type of care to cats, although it does need to be one that is amenable to that sort of handling!
Treatments for arthritis in cats
Up until recently, there have not been any licensed drugs for the long-term control of arthritis in cats. Many products that are safe for use in humans and widely available over the counter, such as aspirin, paracetemol and ibuprofen can be extremely dangerous if used in cats. In fact, the use of such drugs by misinformed owners is one of the most common causes of poisoning in cats.
Some anti-arthritic drugs with a veterinary licence for dogs have been used in cats, but with extreme caution, not only because of the cat’s known sensitivity to that group of drugs, but also because the canine preparations are not in a dosage size that are designed to be given to cats.
Can Metacam for cats help treat arthritis?
That has changed recently with the introduction of a drug called meloxicam in a formulation licensed to treat cats with arthritis or other causes of chronic pain. Marketed under the trade name of Metacam for Cats, it comes as a liquid that can easily be administered orally once a day, using a specially marked syringe. It is one of the products that was formerly available only in a canine formulation, but had been used quite widely off-licence in cats. The feline product is significantly less concentrated than the canine one, so can be dosed more accurately. This is important, as if it is over-dosed, there is a significantly greater chance of developing side effects, particularly vomiting or diarrhoea.
It is gratifying that we now have another effective feline product in our armoury to help control what we now know to be a very significant cause of chronic pain in cats.
Arthritis cat facts:
- 20% of the UK cat population shows signs of arthritis
- Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements can help mild-cases
- Preventing obesity lessens the effects
- Acupuncture can also be of use
- Meloxicam (Metcam) can be used to control pain.
The following may help to relieve arthritis symptoms in cats:
Seraquin is a veterinary joint support product for cats and dogs, which can be given as a tasty treat. Seraquin contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which occur naturally in the body as part of the make-up of cartilage. What makes Seraquin special is the inclusion of curcumin. Curcumin is a potent natural antioxidant and may help mop up free radicals in joints which contribute to cartilage degeneration. If you’ve seen any changes in your cat such as difficulty in jumping, limping or stiffness, resistance to play, change in temperament or a change in grooming habit (licking joints), it might be worth asking your vet about Seraquin. www.seraquin.co.uk
Hilton Herbs - Kitty Senior
Some cats seem to stay 'kitten-like' all their lives but even so the passage of time will inevitably impact on our wonderful companions as they age. Kitty Senior is a unique product, combining herbal extracts and sweet-tasting vegetable glycerine for maximum palatability, which will help maintain supple joints and muscles and overall health for Older cats.
Kitty Senior comes in 50ml and 100ml dropper bottles and can be added to food, milk or water and a 50ml bottle (£13) will last an average (4kg) cat approximately 30 days. Use code YCAT2013 when ordering online or over the phone to get an introductory 10% discount. Visit www.hiltonherbs.com for more information.
Mark and Chappell - Geriatr-UM
Geriatr-UM tablets contain a concentrated source of natural active ingredients specially formulated for senior cats that are showing signs of slowing down such as fatigue and sluggishness. Containing over twenty different vitamins and minerals they help promote essential cell maintenance and help the body adjust to the ageing process.
Geriatri-UM also contains Green Lipped Mussels which are a natural source of joint preserving agents and Ginseng which is proven to help maintain the immune system and aids in increasing energy and stamina during physical activity which is necessary for ageing cats. Visit our website www.markandchappell.com for more information.
Lintbells - YUMOVE Cat
Joint support with YUMOVE Cat. It is often difficult to spot the signs of stiff joints in your cat as many are simply mistaken for your cat getting older. If you have noticed your cat becoming less active, grooming less or perhaps their personality has changed these could be signs of stiff joints. YUMOVE Cat is a tasty sprinkle capsule combining the finest quality ingredients specifically selected to support your cat's joints. YUMOVE Cat contains pure Glucosamine & Chondroitin, triple strength Green Lipped Mussel, Hyaluronic Acid and Manganese. YUMOVE Cat is also suitable for cats on a low phosphate diet.
To find out more simply contact Lintbells on 01462 790886 or visit www.lintbells.com.
InformPet - Syno-Vital Pet
Joint problems are common in both ourselves and our pets. Synovial fluid naturally occurs in our body and lubricates joints and tissues to allow free movement. As we age, or injure ourselves, we produce less synovial fluids, which can lead to problems and pain. Hyaluronan has been described as ‘nature’s healing agent’ as it is an essential part of the synovial fluid and has an important role in joint-bone health. Syno-Vital Pet is an easy-to-use liquid feed supplement that contains hyaluronan. With just one dose a day, Syno-Vital Pet will help keep joints healthy, maintain bones and keep your cat’s fur shiny and smooth.
Join the many pet owners who keep their cat “Jumping for Joy” with DGP.
DGP is an all natural product that supports and maintains joint structure, promotes joint mobility and flexibility, improves joint comfort and works FAST.
DGP is ideal for any cat showing signs of stiffness and difficulty getting up after rest; an unwillingness to jump; grooming less; becoming more reclusive. DGP has been sold in the USA for over 9 years and is one of the leading pet joint supplements on the market. DGP, new to the UK, is set to have the same success here. Trial packs available at www.doggonepain.co.uk or call 0844 414 3122.