Aug 18, 2023

Osteoarthritis in Cats: Know the Signs

In last week’s blog, we discussed kidney disease in cats and how VetStem Cell Therapy may help. This week, we want to discuss osteoarthritis (OA) in cats so that cat owners know what to watch out for. That’s right, cats get OA too! In fact, a high percentage of cats will get or already have osteoarthritis. 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.

National Take your Cat to the Vet Day

But why two cat blogs in a row, you ask? Well August 22nd is National Take your Cat the Vet Day. This day is meant to bring awareness to the fact that the statistics for feline veterinary care are disparagingly low compared to dogs. According to one recent academic survey, only 20% of cat owners said they took their cat to the vet more than once a year, compared to 35% of dog owners. Additionally, 7% of cat owners said they never seek veterinary care, compared to 2% of dog owners. Likewise, in a targeted survey of pet owners conducted by the AVMA, only 48% of cat owners said they sought routine veterinary care for their cat, compared to 79% of dog owners.

Cats are Masters at Hiding Their Pain

There are likely several reasons for this discrepancy, one of which may be the fact that cats tend to be masters at hiding their pain. This tendency is often linked to survival instincts. In the wild, if a cat shows weakness, this may draw unwanted attention from a predator. But in the domestic cat whose only predator is a half empty bowl of food, this tendency to hide pain just means us owners have a hard time knowing when our cat should be taken to the vet.

Preventative Veterinary Care for Cats

Thus, National Take your Cat to the Vet Day promotes the idea of once-to-twice yearly preventative veterinary exams. These types of routine check-ups are important to maintain a cat’s health. Even if nothing appears to be wrong with your cat, routine examinations by your veterinarian may uncover some ailment that your cat has been hiding. In the same way, routine bloodwork can help your veterinarian monitor for diseases such as kidney failure.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Cats

But back to OA 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.

According to the FDA, “Clinical signs of osteoarthritis in cats include weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, urination or defecation outside the litter pan, and inability to jump on and off objects.” Unlike dogs, cats do not commonly present with lameness or limping. Instead, they will be less willing to jump and/or have shorter jumps.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis in Cats

Unfortunately, there are fewer treatment options for cats with OA 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. There are some non-drug options including weight loss for overweight cats, increased exercise, as well as environmental accommodations such as elevated food bowls and more easily accessible litter boxes. But these are not the only non-drug treatment options available.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis in Cats

VetStem Cell Therapy is a non-drug 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. The beauty of VetStem Cell Therapy is that we are harnessing your pet’s own healing power, so it can be considered a natural and holistic approach to managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

If you are interested in having your pet treated with VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.


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