A closer look: Arthritis (Osteoarthritis) in Cats
Osteoarthritis is common in cats, affecting up to 90% of senior cats. The disease is progressive and incurable, so early identification and appropriate management are the best strategies for reducing the severity of symptoms.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. The disease is progressive and worsens over time. Most treatments focus on slowing the progression of disease and alleviating pain.
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Joint injury also increases the risk of osteoarthritis developing.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint cartilage degenerates over time. Anything that increases the wear and tear on a joint hastens the development of osteoarthritis. As the joint cartilage begins to degenerate, an inflammatory process begins that causes further tissue destruction. This tissue destruction results in the reduced joint mobility and pain characteristic of arthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats are often subtle, due to cats’ nature to hide signs of pain.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnostic testing includes:
- Physical exam
- X-rays, including specialized tests to highlight any joint instability
- CT scans
- Sampling joint fluid
Steps to Recovery
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and delay the impact this progressive condition has on quality of life.
Treatment typically starts conservatively, and progresses as needed.
Treatment options include:
- Weight loss
- Veterinary-approved joint supplements
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Pain control medications
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
A recently-released medication that targets a protein involved in pain signaling is now available for cats. Frunevetmab shows promising results in managing osteoarthritis pain in cats.
Some types of arthritis benefit from surgical intervention. Surgical options include:
- Re-alignment of bony structures to restore joint function
- Joint removal
- Joint replacement
- Joint fusion
Osteoarthritis is a life-long, progressive disease with no definitive cure. Appropriate management helps reduce symptoms and pain, allowing for improved quality of life. Routine physical examinations help monitor response to treatment and allow for small adjustments in treatment strategies if necessary. Any changes in symptoms require prompt follow-up with a veterinarian to ensure appropriate management.
Prevention of osteoarthritis primarily focuses on maintaining a healthy weight. The added body weight in obesity causes additional wear and tear on the joints, increasing the likelihood of cartilage damage and arthritis. Routine wellness check-ups with a veterinarian help identify signs of weight gain early, allowing for management strategies to be implemented.
Is Arthritis (Osteoarthritis) in Cats common?
Osteoarthritis is common in cats, with up to 90% of cats over the age of 12 having some degree of osteoarthritis. Identifying symptoms of osteoarthritis is often difficult in cats, due to their natural instinct to hide signs of pain.
- Pain control
- Physical therapy
- Oral supplements