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Arthritis in Cats
What is arthritis?
Arthritis (sometimes called osteoarthritis) is the inflammation within the joints and tissues surrounding them.
Which cats are at risk?
Arthritis is extremely common in cats, increasing in frequency with age. One study showed that 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of arthritis. In another study, 22% of ALL cats have some changes on x-ray suggesting arthritis with 33% of those showing clinical signs! Some breeds are at greater risk for certain joint troubles: for example Maine coon cats are more prone to hip trouble and Abyssinian cats are more prone to knee trouble, but the breed disposition for arthritis hasn’t been studied and males and females are equally at risk.
How do I know if my cat has arthritis?
Since the hips and elbows are the most commonly affected joints, lameness is not typically a sign of arthritis in cats. Rather, the signs come on so slowly they are often missed or are incorrectly attributed to aging. Signs include: Inappropriate elimination (outside the litter box), decreased grooming, reluctance to be combed, reluctance to jump up/down, sleeping more, moving less, withdrawing from interaction with the owner, and hiding.
How is arthritis diagnosed?
Radiographs (x-rays) can hint at arthritis, but the degree of change on the x-ray doesn’t always correlate with the degree of pain. For instance, a cat may have very mild changes apparent on an x-ray, but may be very painful. The reverse is also true. Cats in general, are much less cooperative in the exam room to have their joints palpated and gait analyzed, so often we rely on the owner’s observation, x-rays, and blood work (to rule out any underlying medical issues).
How is arthritis treated?
There are many ways to slow the progression of arthritis and treat the associated pain:
Together with you, Lawrence Veterinary Hospital can come up with a plan involving some or all of the above treatments to help with your pet’s osteoarthritis.