Arthritis, a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 adults, also affects our pets. It is a condition in which an animal’s joints become inflamed. It is accompanied by pain, heat, and swelling in the joints, and it usually results in increasing stiffness and immobility. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis in animals as well as in humans. Over time, the cartilage that cushions joints wears down and bones start rubbing against each other. As the condition progresses, the friction can wear down and damage the bones themselves. This kind of arthritis is most common and causes the most pain in the weight-bearing joints like the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and ankles.
Osteoarthritis is a common, but under-recognized condition in senior cats. The signs are often subtle, and can can be hard to distinguish – cats can’t complain about their aching joints, so all that pet owners see is a response to pain. Cats with arthritis might avoid the activities they used to enjoy, some may become depressed or change their eating habits, others may simply seem grumpier than usual. Since these symptoms can also indicate other very serious problems, a veterinary visit is imperative to ensure proper diagnosis.
There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed holistically:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements such as Cosequin and omega-3-fatty acids can be useful in cats with mild to moderate disease.
- Adjust your cat’s environment – add steps or ramps to allow easier access to favorite sleeping areas, use litter boxes with a low entry for easy access and high sides for cats that can no longer sqat, use a fine consistency litter that’s easier on the paws.
- Manage obesity to reduce additional stress on your cat’s joints.
- Gently massage the large muscles around joints if your cat will tolerate it.
- Acupuncture can be an affective treatment if your cat tolerates the visits to the acupuncturists’s office and the needles.
- I’ve found Reiki to be a wonderful modality to help alleviate the pain and stiffness that can come with arthritis, especially in advanced cases when massage can be too painful.
- I recently started Amber, who has some mild arthritis in her hindlegs, on a Flower Essence Blend called “Run and Play.” She seems to be a bit more playful since I started her on it, so I’m going to keep going with it.
- For severe cases, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications.
By being aware of subtle changes in your cat and making the necessary adjustments, arthritis does not need to become a debilitating condition, and you can do much to keep your arthritic cat comfortable.