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ARTHRITIS IN CATS | SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT

With advances in preventative health and veterinary treatment, as well as high quality pet food, our dogs and cats are now living longer. However, this now means our pets are facing more age-related conditions than ever before. Osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints) in dogs and cats is one of the most common age-related diseases that affects our pets. It used to be thought that arthritis only affected dogs, but the incidence of arthritis in cats over 12 years old is estimated to be as high as 90%. Cats with arthritis show very different symptoms to arthritic dogs which is probably why it has been historically under-reported. Scroll down for our guide to symptoms of arthritis in cats.



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There are different types of arthritis and joint disease that affect dogs and cats, with some joint problems being genetic and others being caused by a faulty immune system. However, osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is the one our elderly pets suffer from most. This is caused by a previous trauma or injury or mechanical wear and tear of the joints, the most commonly affected being the knees, hips and elbows.


So what are the warning signs of arthritis in cats? How do you spot the symptoms of osteoarthritis and what is the treatment or suggested remedy to help your cat with arthritis pain and discomfort in their senior years? Also are joint supplements effective in the prevention and treatment of joint inflammation in your cat? We look at the top 7 vet recommended, active ingredients found in joint supplements to assist in joint care with your feline or canine companion. 


SIGNS OF OSTEOARTHRITIS IN CATS

Cats don’t tend to show obvious signs of pain and any symptoms of arthritis in cats can be hard to spot. More often than not, they involve subtle behavioural changes, such as a reluctance to move rather than typical lameness that you might see in a dog. Warning signs of arthritis in cats can include: being unable to jump up or down, or hesitation before jumping; difficulty getting up or down the stairs; difficulty using the litter tray (especially if it’s high sided); sleeping more and moving less; stiffness; less time grooming leading to a poor coat condition; over grooming the painful joints; reluctance to play or hunt, and aggression due to arthritic pain. In cats, arthritis is most commonly found in the elbows, hips, shoulders and spine, with multiple joints often affected.


CAT OBESITY AND JOINT DISEASE ARTHRITIS

Being overweight can put extra strain on the joints causing more pain. Furthermore, new research suggests that adipose fat tissue actually produces chemicals (adipokines) which can increase inflammation. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do to alleviate arthritic pain in your cat and help them feel more comfortable is to help him or her stay slim or lose weight. If you’re unsure if they need to lose weight, consult your local vet surgery and check out this body condition chart.

Cats don’t tend to show obvious signs of pain and any symptoms of arthritis in cats can be hard to spot. 

VETERINARY TREATMENT FOR CATS WITH ARTHRITIS

Cats hide pain very well and owners are often surprised when they’re told their cat is probably in discomfort. It can be challenging to know if they’re in pain as many of the signs involve very subtle changes in behaviour. However, if your cat is showing any signs or symptoms of arthritis as mentioned above, it’s likely they’re in pain and you should speak to your veterinary surgeon. Treatment for arthritis in cats is achieved through medication for pain relief and anti-inflammatories. These come in a variety of forms including Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can start to work almost instantly, but take about a week to reach full effect; your vet can advise you on the best one for your cat. Your vet may also advise about the different types of joint supplements available and about weight management, should your pet need this. As with arthritis treatment in dogs, complementary therapy such as acupuncture, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy is often also recommended, and although these are suitable for cats too, they don’t always make willing patients. The car journey alone can be a stressful experience for a cat, let alone getting them to swim at a hydrotherapy session.

Therefore, if this kind of treatment is suggested for your cat, it’s important to work with your vet and hydro therapist to make the experience as stress-free as possible for your feline friend.

NATURAL REMEDIES & JOINT SUPPLEMENTS FOR CATS & DOGS WITH ARTHRITIS

There are now a few brands of joint supplements available to choose from, each of which will have a different combination of active ingredients which you can read about in our Joint Supplement section further on. Below, we have created a list of top joint supplements and natural remedies, minerals and vitamins to alleviate pain and act as a preventative measure for osteoarthritis in dogs and cats.


TOP 7 VET RECOMMENDED NATURAL JOINT SUPPLEMENTS FOR ARTHRITIS & JOINT CARE IN DOGS AND CATS

Joint care supplements (nutraceuticals) are often recommended for arthritis in dogs and cats as a natural remedy for problems such as degenerative osteoarthritis. However, the quality and efficacy of joint supplements can vary from brand to brand, so it’s important to do your research before trying a supplement. Each brand of supplement contains a different combination of active ingredients. We’ve explained the differences between these ingredients below, but it means that you may need to try a few different supplements (one at a time for a period of at least 6-8 weeks) to see which one suits your pet best.

1. GLUCOSAMINE & CHONDROITIN SULPHATE

These can be thought of the building blocks of cartilage as they are major components of cartilage. The idea is that if the cartilage is wearing away a joint supplement can help repair the cartilage, as you may have heard from human studies. There are, however, mixed opinions on the effectiveness of these supplements. Studies in veterinary medicine have also shown these mixed results in their effectiveness and therefore glucosamine alone is not recommended for managing osteoarthritis.

2. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS

http://www.yourcat.co.uk/indepth-cat-articles/osteoarthritis-in-cats-diagnosis-and-treatment.html

Not all fats are bad - Omega 3 is just one type of essential fatty acid (EFA). They are called essential as they cannot be synthesised in the body and must be obtained by diet. Dogs and cats need several types of Omega oils, including 6 and 3. However, studies have shown that a diet supplemented with the Omega 3 known as Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) can help reduce inflammation of the joints by affecting the production of inflammatory mediators involved in causing pain and inflammation. In humans they are thought to have a good effect. In the veterinary world, studies in both cats and dogs have shown some positive results, but research is limited and no long term effects have been looked into. They are generally thought to be helpful and are safe so these can be used alongside other products. The best sources of Omega 3 are fish and marine algae.

3. GREEN LIPPED MUSSEL

This is an exciting new development in veterinary joint care medicine. Green Lipped Mussel extract, as the name suggests, is a derivative from mussels and contains the same Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that oily fish do. However, it has also been shown to be an excellent and almost unique source of Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA), another Omega 3 fatty acid. ETA has been clinically proven to help manage osteoarthritis by reducing inflammation and is more successful at doing so than fish oil (EPA and DHA). On top of this, Green Lipped Mussel is also a great source of Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Of all the active ingredients available for joint conditions, this seems to be the most effective joint supplement for dogs and cats.

4. VITAMINS AND MINERALS

Some evidence has been seen for the addition of Vitamin C and E in the diet, and for some minerals such as Manganese and Zinc. Some of these are designed to mop up free radicals that can damage the cartilage and are also needed in cartilage production. Overdoses of vitamins and minerals can cause serious problems, so it’s recommended they are only used when in a specially designed supplement.

5. HYALURONIC ACID

This is a natural component of the synovial fluid that helps to lubricate the joints, and supplementation has been shown to offer some pain relief.

Being overweight can put extra strain on the joints, causing more pain.

6. MSM – METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE

This is a naturally occurring Sulphur-containing compound. MSM is an antioxidant and is reported to have anti-inflammatory, pain relieving properties that help promote the formation of connective tissue and repair damaged proteins.

7. COLLAGEN HYDROLYSATE

Collagen is rich in amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which may help to build and repair connective tissues in the joints.
Overall there are many joint supplement nutraceuticals that can be used in the management of arthritis in dogs and cats, your vet can recommend specific types based on their experience.

Collagen is rich in amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which may help to build and repair connective tissues in the joints.

Overall there are many joint supplement nutraceuticals that can be used in the management of arthritis in dogs and cats; your vet can recommend specific types based on their experience.

If you decide to use a joint supplement, it’s recommended that you discuss the type of supplement with your vet. This is to ensure nothing more (pain relief or anti-inflammatories) is needed than supplementation at this stage and that the supplement you have chosen is suitable for your individual pet. In addition, it’s important that the correct amounts of supplements are given so veterinary specific products are advised.


FURTHER READING AND REFERENCES ON CAT ARTHRITIS:

International Cat Care: Arthritis and degenerative joint disease in cats
Fascetti, A.J and Delaney S.J (2012)Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition, Wiley Blackwell. P147
Feline Hydrotherapy
Your Cat - Caring for a cat with arthritis
Non surgical treatment of arthritis 
Preventative Vet - How can I tell if my cat is in pain? 
Anti-inflammatory activity of a lipid fraction (lyprinol) from the NZ green-lipped mussel.
VCA Animal Hospitals – Glycosaminoglycans ­ 
Cats Protection – Arthritis guide 

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