Cats Get Arthritis Too
Arthritis, a painful inflammation of the joints which gradually gets worse doesn’t only affect humans. The condition is also very common in cats, especially in those older than 10 years although it can be developed by younger cats as well. And since cats typically hide signs of health problems, arthritis usually goes unnoticed until the pain becomes severe. Unfortunately, arthritis in cats cannot be cured but there are ways to relieve the pain and improve the cat’s quality of life.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats
Cats are masters of disguise when it comes to hiding health issues. As a result, it is very difficult to notice that they have a problem until it gets severe. And arthritis is no exception. The first signs and symptoms are thus displayed only when the pain increases to the point the cat can no longer hide it. Some of the most common symptoms of arthritis in cats include:
– stiffness, lameness
– reduced activity, lack of interest in play
– reluctance to jump, difficulty climbing stairs
– joint swelling
– accidents outside the litter box
– decreased grooming
– discomfort, irritability, display of aggression when handled
Causes of Arthritis in Cats
Most cases of arthritis in cats are caused by degeneration of the cartilage, a protective tissue that prevents the bones from rubbing directly against each other. This degeneration is unfortunately a normal part of the aging process and thus the condition is most often observed in older cats. However, arthritis can also be developed by younger cats. The most common causes after aging related wear and tear include injury, trauma and infection. Overweight has also been shown to play a role in arthritis by increasing stress on the joints which doesn’t only increase the risk of developing the condition but it also makes it more difficult to manage.
Risk Factors of Arthritis in Cats
Just like in humans, the risk of arthritis in cats increases with age. More than three quarters of cats aged 10 years or more have damaged cartilage to a certain extent. Overweight is also a major risk factor because it puts stress on the joints and increases the wear and tear. Other risk factors include injury such as joint dislocation, trauma and infection causing inflammation of the joints.
Treatment of Arthritis in Cats
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in cats. The available treatments focus on relieving the pain and improving joint mobility which, however, dramatically increases the pet’s quality of life. For that reason it is critical to start with treatment as soon as possible.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most commonly prescribed treatment because they alleviate the pain and improve mobility. Surgery may also be an option, especially if the cat has suffered an injury or trauma. If your cat has arthritis, you can also help her by making food and water easily available, providing easy-to-reach and cozy bed, buying a litter box with low sides, etc. The last but not the least important is to watch the cat’s weight. If she is overweight, ask your vet for advice on diet and exercise that is safe for cats with arthritis.