Osteoarthritis In Cats: Recognizing, Preventing, Treating

Most older cats suffer from osteoarthritis, which causes pain. But cats hide their pain. Read here about how osteoarthritis develops and how you can recognize the first signs in your cat. This is the only way you can effectively help your cat.

Studies have shown that around 90 percent of cats over the age of twelve have affected joints. If the joint changes are accompanied by inflammation and pain, this is referred to as arthrosis. However, the question is how these joint changes occur in the first place and how cats with osteoarthritis can be treated to give them the chance of a pain-free life.

This is How Arthrosis Develops

The hip joints are most commonly affected by arthrosis, but the painful disease can develop in all joints. Osteoarthritis begins with damage to the articular cartilage. Normally, the viscous joint fluid (synovia) in the space between the articular cartilage of the bones that meet ensures smooth mobility of the joint. But the synovia is only formed sufficiently when the cat is moving.

When the cartilage is damaged by injury, infection, or wear and tear, the joint becomes inflamed and causes pain. Cells and substances are released that change the composition of the synovia – it becomes thin. Since the cat no longer wants to move due to the pain, hardly any fresh synovial fluid is formed.

If there is not enough synovia in the joint space or if it is too thin, the cartilages rub against each other without a protective lubricating film and are damaged further. In addition, the inflammatory cells also directly attack the joint and accelerate its destruction. In short: cartilage damage, inflammation and pain lead to a vicious circle, through which the joint damage caused by arthrosis increases.

Signs of Osteoarthritis in Cats

Changes in Running

Cats hide their pain as much as possible to avoid attracting the attention of potential predators. This also applies to chronic joint pain that occurs with osteoarthritis: cats, for example, are only very rarely noticeably lame, which is why you have to look very closely to see whether your cat is actually lame. If she does, this could be an indication of rheumatism or arthrosis, for example.

Decreased Need for Movement

Cats with joint pain are also less playful than before. They move less and avoid certain movements such as jumping. Many owners also notice that their cat no longer goes to their favorite place on the windowsill or on the bookshelf.

Poor Hygiene

The pain and associated loss of mobility can also lead to the cat becoming unclean as the walk to the litter box become too tedious. Their body care can also be neglected more and more: the cat can no longer reach some parts of its body due to pain.

Noticeable Character Changes

Some cats become irritable and aggressive because they are constantly in pain. However, most cats withdraw: they often stay passively in the same place for hours and are particularly sluggish.

On the website of the manufacturer of biological medicines Heel Veterinär you will find a free osteoarthritis check that can help you to recognize early on whether your cat is suffering from the first symptoms of osteoarthritis:

Pain Relief From Osteoarthritis Medication

The damage to the joints is irreparable – the therapy is therefore about relieving the cat’s pain in order to maintain its mobility. In addition, a worsening of arthrosis should be prevented. That is why arthrosis is treated in a multimodal manner: different therapy components (modules), individually adapted to the needs of the velvet-pawed patient, are combined with one another.

The pain medications that the veterinarian prescribes for osteoarthritis have both a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. Most cats tolerate the pain medication very well. In individual cases, however, side effects such as vomiting and/or diarrhea can occur.

In any case, only painkillers prescribed by the vet may be used. Painkillers for humans are an absolute taboo: they can be deadly for the cat!

To support the musculoskeletal system of the sick cat, biological remedies with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects with ingredients such as arnica, comfrey, or sulfur.

Some complete feeds for cats are also formulated in such a way that they optimally support the musculoskeletal system, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

Keep Moving Despite Osteoarthritis

It is important for the cat to keep moving despite arthrosis for a number of reasons: exercise supports weight loss, promotes muscle growth, and stimulates the formation of synovial fluid. You can motivate your cat by distributing its food in tiny portions around the apartment.

When the animals are largely pain-free thanks to the medication and their “rusty” joints have shrunk again, they will find joy in movement again. After a few weeks of therapy, it is not uncommon for some apparently lazy cats to surprise them with their newly awakened joy of playing and activity.

Other Options for Treating Osteoarthritis

Not every cat puts up with physiotherapy treatments. If possible, however, massages, cold or heat applications as well as electro and/or ultrasound therapy can be used to relieve tension, relieve pain and build muscle in a targeted manner.

In order for the cat to be able to lead its usual life despite osteoarthritis, small changes in everyday life are sometimes necessary: ​​Some cats, for example, need a lower entrance into their litter box or a climbing aid to the lookout point. Some cats can no longer reach all parts of their body to groom them. Lovingly extensive brush massages then serve not only for body care but also for a good human-cat relationship.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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