"Osteochondrodystophy in Cats
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"Osteochondrodystophy in Cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Osteochondrodystrophy is a condition that affects the Scottish Fold cat breed and it is a direct result of the breed's cartilage abnormality which affects the way their ears develop. As such, most Scottish Folds suffer from the condition to some degree. The reason being that the same abnormality can also affect the development of a cat's bone and cartilage in other areas of the body with devastating effects. As a result, cats can develop osteoarthritis very early in their lives thanks to the fact they have osteochondrodystrophy, but through responsible breeding, fewer cats are now being produced with this debilitating disorder.

Signs to Watch Out For

When cats have the problem, there are obvious signs of there being something wrong due to their exaggerated physical abnormalities which could include the following:

  • Exaggerated short lower legs both front and back
  • Reduced mobility in joints
  • Pain when joints are manipulated
  • Fusion of hock joints
  • Fusion of lower joints and in particular, the joints found in a cat's toes
  • Tails are exaggeratedly short and therefore inflexible
  • Osteoarthritis more especially in the lower joints and hocks
  • Ears folding forwards

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would need to have a cat's full medical history and ideally know their ancestry too. They would carry out a full examination of a cat and may well recommend the following tests which would help confirm a diagnosis:

  • X-rays of affected limbs
  • A bone scan
  • A spiral CT

The vet would also need to rule out any other reasons why a cat might be showing clinical signs of there being something wrong with them. A young cat might be lame for a multitude of reasons which includes having injured themselves or been bitten by a litter mate during play which could have become infected.

When osteoathritis is a problem in several joints, it is typically a secondary painful condition to another systemic disorder and vets would need to rule out any primary conditions which can make things more challenging. Diet plays an important role and as such, a vet would recommend feeding a kitten the correct levels of calcium:phosphate which luckily most well-known brands of pet food now contain.

Treatment Options

There is no treatment for this genetic abnormality, however, should a cat develop osteoathritis which goes hand in hand with the disorder, a vet would be able to treat them with an end goal being to make life as comfortable for them as possible. Should a cat be suffering from a very severe case a vet might recommend either of the two procedures which have been seen to be quite successful at prolonging a cat's life with the added bonus being it would be drug-free:

  • Radioisotope samarium from a LINAC which kills the pain fibres in affected joints
  • External beam from a LINAC which kills the pain fibres in affected joints

The Prognosis

The prognosis for cats diagnosed with osteochondrodystrophy is never very good. However, with the correct management and palliative care, cats with the condition can lead a good quality of life. When the condition is more severe, the prognosis is guarded because as time goes by, the symptoms get worse. It is worth noting that some cats respond well to treatments which includes surgery, whereas others do not.

Cats with the condition should never be used in a breeding programme and as such they should be spayed or neutered when the time is right for them to undergo the procedures. The mutation that causes osteochondrodysplasia is a single autosomal dominant gene which can affect some cats more than others. As such the severity of a cat's condition really does vary from one cat to another cat. As previously mentioned, all Scottish Folds can develop the condition to some degree with some cases being much worse than others which is why responsible breeding is so important in the breed.

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