Feline Arthritis: What Is It & What Can We Do?

By January 23, 2023 Veterinarian
Arthritis sucks. I know that’s a bit of an unorthodox way to start a blog, but why beat around the bush on something so obviously true! And yes, fine, I’m still a young spring chicken (relative to Dr.Chamandy but don’t tell him I said that), what do I know about arthritis? Well let’s learn together, friends.  

 

Arthritis is defined as a chronic degenerative disease resulting in changes to the tissues that comprise a joint, such as cartilage, joint capsule, and surrounding bone. So what does that mean? Let’s take a look at the diagram below: The surrounding light blue is skin, dark blue is muscle, and the light pink area is the joint capsule. Within the joint capsule, you see the dark pink area which consists of synovial fluid and the ends of two bones with a nice layer of cartilage (white) on each bone. The cartilage on the ends of bones act as a cushion for the joint. The synovial fluid within the joint capsule acts as a lubricant to help bones move smoothly within the capsule. Together, the cartilage and synovial fluid work together to ensure all bones move easily and without pain.  

That’s all fine and dandy until you get destruction of the cartilage. The two bones then lose their nice cushion and rub together. Another common finding with arthritis is the formation of new bone (bone spurs seen on the far right photo) which also rub against other bones. Bones rubbing against each other can create a lot of inflammation and pain within the joint. 

 

If reading this gave you some form of PTSD to the last time you tried to get up off the floor, then you get it: Arthritis sucks. These arthritic changes are similar in humans and animals.  

So, what causes arthritis in joints? An injury to a joint can cause early onset arthritis. However, the most common cause of arthritis is day to day wear-and-tear, resulting in chronic degeneration, which usually manifests at an older age.  

Now that we’re all caught up on what arthritis is, what does this have to do with our furry feline friends? Sadly, cats (and dogs) can suffer from arthritis as well! We often find that the stress of coming to the veterinarian gives cats so much adrenaline that they don’t show us any pain, this is an instinctual survival mechanism of theirs. Therefore, it’s very important for owners to notice the signs of arthritis at home in order for us to help them!  

Here is a list of some common signs that owners should be on the lookout for: 

All of these behavioural changes can negatively affect your cat’s quality of life.  

 If you think that your cat has some of the above signs, here are some things you can do at home to help your cat! 

  • Provide accessible litter boxes 
  • Ensure that your cat doesn’t have to jump / climb stairs to get to their litter box 
  • Ensure that the litter box isn’t too tall to climb into 
  • Ensure that the litter box has enough space inside for your cat 
  • Provide accessible food and water  
  • Ensure that your cat doesn’t have to jump / climb stairs to get to food/water  
  • Easy access to favourite elevated spaces  
  • Example: provide some stairs for your cat to get onto a couch or bed  
  • Place some slip-resistant surfaces on the floor such as carpets / rugs. 
  • Have lots of supportive blankets, pillows, and bedding around for your cat 

 Lastly, if your cat is displaying any of the signs above, you should strongly consider bringing your cat to the vet! At the vet, we will assess your cat’s pain, joint mobility, and strength. From this assessment, there are a number of things we recommend: 

  • Joint support supplements 
  • This can be added to your cats food and helps to strengthen their cartilage! 
  • Weight loss  
  • Extra weight on your cat puts more pressure on their joints, which exacerbates their arthritis.  
  • Daily pain medications  
  • This is to help your cat feel more comfortable in their day to day life.  
  • A NEW treatment called Solensia  
  • Solensia is a once monthly injection done at the veterinarian 
  • It consists of a monoclonal antibody, which targets a “nerve growth factor” which is a specific protein that stimulates pain from arthritis.  
  • Solensia relieves pain for 1 month with much less side effects than other medications. 

 If you have any questions about anything discussed in this blog OR if you want to bring your cat in for an arthritis assessment, then give us a call!  

We always want to make sure that our feline friends are feeling their very best!  

 Fe-line fine,  

Dr.Shania  

 

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