Pet Doc: Arthritis in cats

Pet Doc Dr. Dennis Larsen said osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis and degenerative joint disease are all describing the same condition: arthritis.

“Dogs do have more problems with arthritis as compared to cats, but cats do get arthritis, which for them occurs later in their senior years.

“In a cat with degenerative joint disease, the cartilage covering the joint surface, called the articulating surface, wears out and the underlying bone develops a roughened surface that damages the joint. Arthritis is more likely to occur in joints that have been severely stress, dislocated, or fractured. Aging joints develop arthritis simply because of a lifetime of wear and tear of the joint surface.

“Arthritic joint changes may begin during the first half of the cat’s life, but symptoms generally do not appear until much later. The signs of arthritis in a cat are mainly stiffness and lameness. Lameness is usually worse when the cat wakes up but gets better as the day wears on. Cats may show swelling around the affected joints and muscle atrophy on the legs whose joints have arthritis. There may be a reluctance to jump and leap. The cat that is arthritic may be irritable and have a change of behavior that is associated with the pain of arthritis. Just like in people cold and damp surroundings may increase the pain and suffering.”

“The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by x-rays and the clinical signs of lameness and stiffness.

“Unfortunately, arthritis is incurable, but treatment can substantially improve the quality of the cat’s life. An arthritic cat may need steps to get to a favorite place such as the bed, the couch, or the windowsill. Massaging the sore joints may help as well as physical therapy to keep the joins rom getting too stiff. Many times arthritis in cats is associated with obesity so getting the overweight cat to lose weight is going to be a big step in the right direction. There are several pain relief medications that can be given to an arthritic cat as well as other medications to help protect the cartilage of the joint from further degeneration.”

“Both Tylenol and aspirin are extremely toxic to cats and will create a life-threatening situation to the cat, don’t do it! Also, do not give pain medications prescribed for your arthritic dog to your arthritic cat as these medications are also extremely toxic to cats.”

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