Managing Arthritis in Cats

June 16, 2020

Feline arthritis is a painful joint inflammatory disease that can severely impact the mobility and comfort of your cat. The condition sees cartilage and synovial fluid loss, which makes movement within the joint painful and less smooth. 

Arthritis is a result of instability in the joint and ongoing wear and tear. It commonly presents itself in a cat’s elbows, hips, or spine, though it can affect any joint in the body. Injury, infection, autoimmune diseases, and genetic makeup are also factors that can lead to feline arthritis. 

As the temperature starts to drop and the colder weather sets in, the symptoms of arthritis can be exacerbated. Cats are very good at hiding injury and pain, so it can often be hard to know when your cat is suffering from arthritis. 

Look out for the following changes in behaviour as indicators of arthritis:

Signs and symptoms 

Reduced mobility

The stiff and sore joints associated with arthritis in cats will prevent them from being as mobile as they once were. Look out for signs such as not being able to get up and down from furniture with ease, the inability to climb into their litter box, and a stiff gait while walking.

Changes in grooming behaviour

Cats with arthritis may stop grooming themselves due to reduced mobility and stiff joints. This can result in matted fur, or dry and flaky skin. There may be signs of overgrooming around particularly painful joints too, easily identified by trauma such as hair loss and inflamed skin around the area.

Changes in personality

If you notice a change in temperament in your cat – unexplained aggressive behaviour, or an intolerance to affection (patting, being held etc) – it may be an indication of joint pain.

Changes in activity level

Joint pain in cats can cause them to avoid going outside, playing, hunting, or even using scratching posts.

How to manage arthritis in cats?

Schedule regular appointments with your vet

If you suspect your cat may have arthritis, book in to see one of our friendly vets as soon as possible. They will assess your cat (bloods and radiographs may be needed) and provide further information on their condition. Maintain a good relationship with your vet to keep track of the arthritis progression.

Look at medical relief

There are a number of treatments available to cats with arthritis. The treatment that is right for your cat will depend on many factors including your cat’s age, weight, and the severity of the disease.

Some of the more common treatments are:

  • Disease modifying osteoarthritis drugs (a series of localised injections into the affected joints that help to stabilise the joint, add lubrication, and aid in cartilage repair. There are often little to no side effects of this treatment).
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications (oral drugs that work to reduce the inflammation around the joints and provide pain relief).
  • Nutraceuticals/prescription diets (dietary supplements such as fish oil, glucosamine, or green lipped mussels that help to fight inflammation in the long term, and protect joints).

Try physical therapy

Exercise is important for cats with arthritis, both to keep their joints moving and to manage their weight. Just be careful not to overdo it and damage their joints further. Encourage light activity by introducing new toys or fun feeding mazes.

Some cats also respond well to massage and acupuncture too. You can even try a massage at home with a warm compress and some gentle manipulation.

Keep your cat’s weight in check

Overweight cats will add extra pressure and wear to their joints, fast tracking the progression of arthritis. If your cat is already showing signs of sore joints, speak to your vet about a weight management plan to help them shift that extra weight gradually.

Adjust your home to make it more comfortable for your cat

Make life easier and less painful for your cat by making some small adjustments around the home. Consider placing steps near furniture to make it easier for your cat to get up and down, provide a warm, snuggly place for them to sleep, and consider changing their litter tray to one with low sides.

Not sure if your cat has arthritis, or just unsure how best to treat it? Call us today and book a consultation so we can give your pet the care and attention they need to live their happiest, healthiest lives.

Got a question?

We’re here to help you with any urgent enquiries or assistance you might need. Need a little extra help, or not sure if you should bring your pet in for a check-up? Give our team a call and we’ll happily answer your questions.