How to Care for a Cat Suffering with Arthritis

How to Care for a Cat Suffering with Arthritis

Health & Safety

Arthritis is a very painful condition that affects the joints and it's caused when cartilage found in them starts to break down. The result is bone rubbing on bone which causes a lot of pain and discomfort. Other symptoms include stiffness and loss of movement. Bones start to alter becoming thicker and bony spurs often start to form. Unfortunately, cats often suffer with the condition and the first signs there may be a problem is when cats find it harder to jump on furniture and their mobility changes.

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would need to take a few X-rays of affected joints in order to make a correct diagnosis and if a cat is found to be suffering from arthritis, they would normally prescribe some kind of medication and suggest offering a cat dietary supplements together with certain foods which can help alleviate any discomfort. Cats would need to be given an anaesthetic in order for an X-rays to be done on affected joints whether it's a hip, elbow or other.

Around 20% of cats will develop arthritis at some point in their lives with older cats being more at risk than their younger counterparts. However, cats of all ages can develop the condition so it's worth keeping an eye out for any symptoms which may be the first signs of your pet being in pain. In severe cases, there may be a swelling around affected joints which results in restricting a cat's movement.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Cats suffering from arthritis will not typically show any signs of being lame with owners first noticing a change in behaviour. This is typically the first sign their pets might be feeling the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis. Very often cats will hide away somewhere quiet when they are in pain . If you pick up your pet and they cry out, it could be because they are hurting. Some cats may even turn a little aggressive which is often completely out of character preferring to run away rather than be handled or petted by their owners.

However, the most obvious sign there may be a problem is a cat's unwillingness to jump up on anything. Owners often pick up on subtle signs there may be a problem but do not realise it could be due to the fact their pet has developed arthritis.

Helping Your Cat

For a long time vets and animal nutritionists have suspected that diet plays a crucial role in controlling arthritis not only in cats but other animals too including humans. For a while now, cod liver oil was given to cats with the condition and to some extent this helped control discomfort. However, it is crucial that the amount of cod liver oil is carefully dosed when feeding it to cats because it could prove toxic if too much is given.

As a result, many people now favour giving cats with the condition a glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplement which have been seen to help repair damaged joint cartilage quite effectively.

The supplement is safe to give to cats and where mild cases are arthritis are involved it has proved very effective. The downside being that cats need to be given the supplement long-term which can prove a bit challenging whether it is is powder or capsule form. Other dietary products which have proved effective at controlling arthritis in cats to varying degrees include the following:

  • Green-lipped mussel extract
  • Hill's Prescription Diet™ Feline j/d which contains high levels of fish oils

Obesity is a Contributing Factor

All too often obesity plays a part in the fact that so many cats today end up suffering from arthritis which is why it's so important for overweight cats to be put on a healthy diet in order for them to lose the extra pounds safely. However, even slender cats can develop the condition especially when they reach their senior years.

Not Many Veterinary Treatments Available

Sadly, there are not many licensed veterinary drugs available to treat arthritis in cats but some vets have prescribed anti-arthritic drugs which are licensed for use on dogs and have witnessed a degree of success when treating cats with the condition. However, the medication has to be given to cats with extreme caution due to the fact that cats are very sensitive to certain groups of drugs and also because the dosage for dogs is that much greater than it is for our feline friends.

The good news is there is a drug called meloxicam which is licensed for cats with arthritis and which is marketed as Metacam for Cats. The product comes in liquid form and is therefore quite easy to administer with a syringe unlike tablets which can prove challenging to give to cats. However, the medication has to be given in the right amounts because if a cat is given too much of it, the side effects include vomiting and diarrhoea.

Top Tips in Controlling Arthritis in Cats

  • In mild cases of arthritis, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements may help heal damaged joint cartilage
  • Obese cats are more at risk of developing the condition and have a harder time when it comes to pain if they do suffer from arthritis
  • Acupuncture has been seen to help cats with the condition
  • For pain relief cats can be given Meloxicam (Metcam for cats)


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