Although we've talked about arthritis before, this time let's talk about our feline friends!
First, we need to realize that cats don't show pain the same was as a human or a dog! We often have people ask about their pet slowing down on walks or struggling up stairs, but the fact that their cat has stopped climbing to the top of the cat tree or now pulls themselves up instead of jumping cleanly goes unnoticed! 40% of cats over 7 years of age has arthritis and 90% of cats over 12 years of age have arthritis. Common locations are elbows and hips!
Here's a fun interactive tool to explore looking for arthritis in your cat! In a nutshell, a change in behaviour is your flag. We've got a bigger list below but some examples include:
This is particularly the case if they injured a joint previously or had an abnormal joint to start with. There are many things you can do as an owner to help your cat continue to live an active, happy, pain free life despite this condition. While many of these overlap with dogs, here is the feline version including a NEW therapy just for our felines!
1. Weight control.
It's hard, but a lot of our cats (especially indoor ones) are overweight. The weight makes arthritis more painful and speeds along the development of more arthritis. If your pet is overweight, please talk to the veterinary team about organizing a plan for controlled weight loss (and check out the section HERE). Cats, however, don't burn fat well. Thisis why we have to very careful with dieting cats. If they try to use their fat, they can end up dumping it into the liver and causing life-threatening liver disease. We want SLOW weight loss in our cats, achieved with a combination of increased movement and lower calories. Your vet is the best resource for creating a weight loss plan that is safe and effective.
Adjust your environment. Give them a step up to the bed. Get a low-sided litter box or cut the edge down for ease of access. Move their favourite bed down. Use gentle play to get them moving without it being a strain. Jumping is hard on joints!
Many supplements can reduce inflammation in the joint AND reduce the amount of medications required to maintain an already painful condition. Quality-controlled products from reputable sellers provide peace of mind that the label is accurate and the product consistent.
Glucosamine alone has little effect; its success is improved by being mixed with chondroitin. Additional remedies, such as Devil's Claw, also reduce the pain of arthritis. Because Devil's Claw works faster than most supplements (having some effect within 2 weeks, instead of 6 weeks such as glucosamine and chondroitin alone), we recommend Flexadin supplements.
Omega 3 fatty acids (aka fish oils) are one of our favourites (and the cats love them too!) We are looking for 66 mg/kg dose of EPA or DHA fatty acids. If the bottle doesn't show the breakdown of the fatty acids, find one that does. You'll need a liquid for dosing cats! These take weeks to months to show benefits, so don’t give up too early. That said, they do not work for every patient; studies show anywhere from 50% to 75% of cases respond, even at correct doses.
Other supplements that have been found to help include Green-lipped mussels, CBD, and turmeric, but remember that no one controls quality of supplements and little is known about dosing. Please discuss any product with your vet; they will be able to advise you about amounts and risks.
Cartrophen Vet (sodium pentosan polysulfate) is an injectable treatment for arthritis that promotes healing of joints and reduces inflammation. It is given as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection once weekly for 4 weeks, then monthly. Often owners can learn to do them on their own at home, although we're also happy to help those who are more shy of needles! See this LINK for more information. We love this for our cats with allergies that limit oral supplements. It is also super safe even with advanced kidney disease and only has to be given once a month. it used to be our only monthly option. That has changed (see below)
4. NEW Solensia
Modern medicine has come up with a unique approach to chronic diseases, the strategy first seen in the revolutionary injection 'Cytopoint' which blocks the itch of allergies but was NOT available cats. This is the first feline version of the technology. In short, Solensia is an inject that contains an antibody, not a drug. The antibody is cat-specific and blocks the nerve growth hormone that goes up in response to arthritic pain. The response has been amazing; the pain reduces. And because it's an antibody, it's broken down with the natural antibodies over time, leaving no strain on the organs. It lasts about 1 month from one shot and kicks in with 6 days. It's a huge advancement in safe arthritis management!
5. Pain medications
We often have to use medications for pain relief periodically or chronically. Common medications include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are used cautiously in cats because they are processed by the kidneys and cats have a pendchant for kidney disease as they age. We also use gabapentin or opioids like buprenorphine as things worsen. We aim to reach the lowest effective dose but please remember: do not increase the amount or frequency of medications without consulting us. We are more likely to add other modalities than increase the dose of a given medication because of dangerous side effects.
Talk to us as your cat gets older and their behaviours change. We're here to help them age gracefully and comfortably!