May 12, 2023

Arthritis Awareness Month: Arthritis in Cats

Posted by Bob under Cat Arthritis, Cats

As we shared in last week’s blog, May is Arthritis Awareness Month. We spend a lot of time talking about arthritis in dogs but it’s important to remember that cats get arthritis too! And because cats are masters at hiding their pain, and their symptoms present differently, sometimes it’s hard to know when our cats have arthritis.

Arthritis in Cats

It may surprise you to learn that a high percentage of cats will get or already have osteoarthritis (OA). According to one study, 91% of cats between 6 months and 20 years old have OA in at least one joint, as proven by X-rays. That being said, sometimes cats with OA have no visible changes on the X-rays. This is one of several reasons why osteoarthritis in cats can be difficult to detect and diagnose.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats

For years, osteoarthritis in cats has been underdiagnosed when compared to dogs. One reason for this is that cats with OA present with different symptoms than what we see in dogs. Because of their smaller size and natural agility, cats tend to tolerate bone and joint problems better than dogs. But there are specific symptoms to watch out for.

Unlike dogs, cats with pain from arthritis do not typically present with lameness and limping. Instead, they will be less willing to jump and/or have shorter jumps. You may also notice a loss of appetite and weight loss, depression or a change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, and urination or defecation outside the litter box.

Checklist to Screen for Early Signs of Arthritis in Cats

Fortunately, there are some newer tools available to help cat owners and veterinarians determine if a cat may have OA. One such tool is a checklist developed by researchers designed to help determine if a cat is suffering from pain associated with OA. The publication analyzed and compiled data from previously conducted studies to develop a short checklist that veterinarians can use to help detect pain associated with OA. The checklist may also be beneficial for owners who are concerned their cat may have OA.

The compiled data allowed researchers to pare down longer diagnostic questionnaires into six short questions:

  1. Does your cat jump up normally?
  2. Does your cat jump down normally?
  3. Does your cat climb up stairs or steps normally?
  4. Does your cat climb down stairs or steps normally?
  5. Does your cat run normally?
  6. Does your cat chase moving objects (toys, prey, etc.)

Treatment for Cats with Arthritis
Unfortunately, there are fewer treatment options for cats with osteoarthritis compared to dogs. Unlike dogs, cats do not tolerate nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medications very well. While there are some NSAIDs approved for short-term post-operative use in cats, there are currently no veterinary NSAIDs approved for safe, long-term use to control osteoarthritis pain in cats according to the FDA.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Arthritis in Cats
VetStem Cell Therapy is a potential treatment option for osteoarthritis in cats, dogs, and horses. It can be particularly beneficial for cats, given that effective treatment options to control osteoarthritis pain are extremely limited. Stem cells have shown the ability to directly modulate pain and down-regulate inflammation. Additionally, stem cells can induce repair and stimulate regeneration of cartilage and other joint tissues.

If you think your cat may benefit from VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.


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