Osteoarthritis (AKA arthritis or degenerative joint disease) is a complex and chronic condition that can impact any joint in the body. While cats can develop arthritis at any age, it’s much more common in older animals. In fact, it likely impacts 70-90% of cats over 12 years old. Learn to recognize the symptoms of cat arthritis so you and your veterinarian can work together to catch it in its earlier stages.
Symptoms of Cat Arthritis
Cats are masters when it comes to hiding pain symptoms! When they lived in the wild, this adaptation kept them safe from larger predators. Now, however, it can make it harder to recognize and diagnose their chronic pain. That’s why it’s important to know what’s “normal” for your cat. Yearly routine wellness exams can help you track your cat’s normal and establish a baseline of good health.
Other symptoms of cat arthritis to watch for include:
Use this helpful interactive checklist from Zoetis to see if your cat is showing signs of osteoarthritis!
What Causes Cat Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis can be caused by a number of factors. Some cats have an increased risk due to genetics or the joint structures they’re born with. Others may develop arthritis after a traumatic injury to the joint. But, in most cases, it’s the result of normal wear and tear throughout your cat’s life.
In a healthy joint, the surface of the bone is covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage and lubricated with a small amount of fluid. This allows the joint to move freely and smoothly. With osteoarthritis, that smooth surface degrades, letting the bones rub together. This leads to further breakdown of the cartilage, making joints stiff and limiting their mobility.
The most commonly affected joints include the elbows, hocks, hips, and stifles. Your cat may have multiple joints that are affected by osteoarthritis, not just one.
How Is Cat Arthritis Diagnosed?
Diagnosing osteoarthritis starts with you! If you notice changes in your cat’s movement quality, habits, or mood it’s important to get in touch with your veterinary care team. If your vet suspects osteoarthritis, they’ll complete a thorough physical exam. This involves moving different joints to check for stiffness, pain, and limited mobility.
Your vet may also suggest x-rays to check for changes to your pet’s bones and joint structures. X-rays are the most accurate way for your veterinarian to confirm an arthritis diagnosis.
Cat Arthritis Treatment & Management
Once your cat develops arthritis, it is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured. Luckily, you have options when it comes to cat arthritis treatment and pain management!
This year, Zoetis released the first and only FDA-approved treatment for osteoarthritis pain in cats. Solensia is a monthly injection administered at your vet’s office. In a three month clinical study, 77% of cat owners experienced seeing improvement in signs of pain when their cats were treated monthly with Solensia.
Other helpful interventions for cats with arthritis pain include:
While osteoarthritis is not a curable condition, you can work with your veterinary care team to help your cat move better and experience less pain. It all starts with an appointment to assess your cat’s condition and get them started on a sustainable pain management program. Want to learn more about cat osteoarthritis, Solensia, and other pain management options? Get in touch with our team to schedule an appointment!