Arthritis Treatment for Cats: Symptoms And Types: You’ve probably noticed your cat slowing down recently. Maybe Fluffy doesn’t jump up to her favorite spot on the couch as easily as before.
Arthritis is common in older cats and can cause pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility. The good news is there are ways to relieve your cat’s arthritis pain and slow the progression of joint degeneration so she can live comfortably for years to come.
Understanding Arthritis in Cats: Symptoms and Causes
If your cat seems stiff, limping, or less active, it could be showing signs of arthritis. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints that causes pain, swelling, and decreased mobility. In cats, it’s usually caused by wear and tear as they age, but injuries or joint problems can also trigger this condition.
Some common symptoms of feline arthritis include:
- Limping or difficulty walking
- Stiffness, especially after resting
- Decreased activity or less interest in playing
- Difficulty jumping onto furniture or climbing stairs
- Swollen or sensitive joints
- Licking or biting joints frequently
There are a few types of arthritis that can affect cats:
- Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common. It’s caused by cartilage breakdown in joints from aging or past injuries.
- Infectious arthritis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection in the joints.
- Immune-mediated arthritis happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks joint tissues.
The good news is there are many treatment options for arthritis in cats that can help relieve pain, improve mobility, and slow the progression of joint degeneration. Talk to your vet about the best options for your cat based on the severity of symptoms and underlying cause. With proper treatment and care, arthritic cats can live comfortably for many years.
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Medical Treatments for Feline Arthritis
If your cat is showing signs of arthritis, the good news is there are several medical treatment options available to help relieve their pain and improve mobility.
1. Pain Medication
Prescription pain medication, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used to reduce inflammation and ease arthritic pain in cats. Common NSAIDs for felines include meloxicam, carprofen, and deracoxib. These come in oral tablets or liquids and must be obtained from your vet. Short-term steroids may also be used to reduce severe inflammation during flare-ups.
Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help support joint health and mobility. They come in chewable tablets or powders that can be sprinkled on food. While they may take weeks of use to become fully effective, many owners find they help reduce stiffness and improve flexibility when used long-term.
For some cats, physical therapy or rehabilitation may be recommended to help improve and maintain joint function. This may include gentle massage, range-of-motion exercises, hydrotherapy, or laser therapy. Working with a vet or physical therapist, you can learn how to properly and safely perform physical therapy at home to help your furry friend.
The type of treatment recommended will depend on the severity of your cat’s arthritis and their overall health. Multiple treatments are often combined for the best results. With proper management, many arthritic cats can live comfortably and happily for years. If you notice your cat is still in pain or their mobility seems to be worsening, consult your vet right away regarding adjustment or changes in treatment.
Types of Arthritis in Cats
There are several types of arthritis that can affect cats. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones, so when it deteriorates, the bones rub together causing pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in older cats, though injury or joint abnormalities can also contribute to early onset. The joints most often affected are the hips, knees, and elbows. Providing your cat pain relief, supplements, weight loss, and gentle exercise can help manage osteoarthritis.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. It causes inflammation and erosion of cartilage and bone. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect cats of any age, though middle-aged to older cats are more prone. Symtoms include stiffness, pain, swelling, and lameness, often in multiple joints. Treatment focuses on suppressing the immune system to reduce inflammation using steroids, immunosuppressants, and nutritional supplements.
Other types of feline arthritis include:
- Ankylosing spondylitis – fusion of the spine
- Polyarthritis – inflammation of multiple joints
- Septic arthritis – infection in the joints
- Traumatic arthritis – caused by joint injury or fracture
No matter the type of arthritis, the goals of treatment are the same: reduce pain, improve mobility, and slow or prevent further joint damage. By understanding the specific type of arthritis your cat has, you and your vet can develop an effective treatment plan to keep your cat as comfortable and active as possible.
As a cat owner, you likely have many questions about arthritis in cats and how to properly care for your feline companion. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about cat arthritis.
What Are The Signs My Cat Has Arthritis?
Some common symptoms of arthritis in cats include:
- Difficulty jumping up or climbing stairs
- Limping or favoring a limb
- Seeming stiff or reluctant to move
- Swollen joints
- Licking or chewing at joints
- Loss of appetite or less interest in grooming
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed In Cats?
Your vet will perform a physical exam, checking for joint swelling, pain, and limited range of motion. They may order blood tests or X-rays to determine the cause and severity of the arthritis.
What Treatments Are Available For Cat Arthritis?
There are several options to relieve arthritis pain in cats:
- Weight loss – Losing excess pounds can take pressure off joints.
- Exercise – Gentle exercise like short walks or play can keep joints flexible.
- Physical therapy – Massage, range-of-motion exercises and hydrotherapy can be helpful.
- Medications – Anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and supplements like glucosamine and fish oil can reduce pain and inflammation.
- Surgery – For severe arthritis, procedures like joint fusion or replacement may provide relief when other treatments are ineffective.
How Can I Make My Arthritic Cat More Comfortable At Home?
Provide your cat with soft, orthopedic bedding, ramps or steps to easily access furniture, litter boxes with low sides, and keep food and water bowls in an easy-to-reach spot. Apply warm compresses to sore joints, give gentle massages, and keep your cat at a healthy weight.
So now you know the basics about arthritis in cats and how to help relieve their discomfort. The good news is there are many treatment options available to improve your cat’s mobility and quality of life. By identifying the early warning signs, making necessary lifestyle changes, providing medication or supplements as recommended by your vet, you have the power to ease your feline friend’s arthritis pain and keep them purring and prancing well into their golden years. Staying on top of regular vet checkups, especially as your cat ages, is key. Don’t let those subtle changes in behavior slip by unnoticed. With your love and care, your arthritic cat can live comfortably for years to come. Together, you’ve got this!