Oh, My Aching Joints!:
Senior cats that exhibit the symptoms of aching joints may be afflicted with Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. Excess weight may be a contributing factor, and weight control (including exercise) is an important part of any treatment program for Osteoarthritis.
Fortunately, new developments in veterinary medicine have provided products that can help relieve the pain, and even to repair existing damage to the cartilage which normally protects joints from damage due to wear.
Symptoms of Feline Osteoarthritis:
- Altered Gait
- Stiffness upon arising from rest
- Reluctance to Jump
- Obvious Pain When Walking
- Personality Changes (Increased nervousness, depression, or aggression)
Your veterinarian will take a detailed history of the problem, and perform a physical examination. Since "lameness" may also be associated with other conditions, blood tests, radiographs, ultrasound, or other procedures may supplement the examination.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin
According to Holly Frisbee, DVM, MS, of PetEducation.com, Glucosamine is a major component of cartilage, and Chondroitin enhances the formation of cartilage and inhibits enzymes in the joint, which tend to break down cartilage.
These anti-inflammatory drugs have fallen into disfavor in recent years because of negative side effects, and is usually used as a last resort.
There have not been any definitive studies linking therapeutic doses of Vitamin C to pain relief of feline osteoarthritis. Small doses may be safe, but Vitamin C is not recommended for cats who are on special diets for UTIs.
Like steroids, potentially serious side effects limit the use of these drugs, and they are contraindicated in cats with kidney, liver, heart disease, as well as other conditions.
Other Home Treatments:
- Weight Control
Excess weight can only contribute to already overburdened joints, and efforts should be made to reduce a rotund cat slowly and safely.
Exercise provides a two-fold benefit: it aids in weight loss, and it helps keep stiff joints warmed up.
- Provide warmth
Arthritic cats will gravitate toward a warm spot to lie. There are a number of commercial products that can help, including chemically or electrically heated pads and beds.
If your cat will tolerate it, gentle massage will help sore muscles and stiff joints. Here are two excellent resources for learning massage for cats:
Although osteoarthritis cannot be cured, a planned treatment program in partnership with your trusted veterinarian can help make your treasured senior cat's final years more comfortable.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. This article is meant only to give you a starting place to do your own research so you can make an informed decision, should it ever become necessary.