OSTEOARTHRITIS: a neglected problem for our cats

It is to the veterinary industry's shame that, for so long, we have failed to see how our cats were silently suffering from osteoarthritis. Fortunately times are a changing and more and more studies into feline osteoarthritis are being undertaken but this is leading to the emergence of some alarming statistics that highlight the need for radical re-education of vets, nurses and cat owners.

But how has this happened? How have we been blind to their pain for all this time? The fault is not all ours. Disease or debility can jepardise the safety of a cat who is not living a sheltered, domestic life so they have evolved to be highly secretive. In order to cope with reduced joint function from arthritic pain cats usually alter their behaviour and lifestyle and so, even in those cats with radiographic evidence of severe joint disease, lameness is an inconsistent and infrequent finding. In fact, it is not uncommon for cats with marked OA pain to run in short bursts without any obvious impairment.

So how do we see through this charade?

Interestingly the most sensitive and specific marker of arthritis in cats is how they jump, though there are other soft markers (so called 'soft' because they can be associated with other geriatric conditions) that can help us identify arthritis in cats. These include;

  • increased vocalization;

  • rough or matted coat (from reduced grooming especially over the hips/lower back);

  • increased grumpiness;

  • inappropriate toileting behaviours (especially urinating/defecating near to, but not in, the litter box) and;

  • a reduced willingness to play.

For to further evaluate your cat's ability to jump please follow this link.

Jumping checklist for cats

For further information about manage your arthritic cat please follow this link.

Managing the arthritic cat


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