Arthritis is a condition where one or more joints become swollen or inflamed. It can affect the hips, elbows, knees, and neck.
There are two types of arthritis:
- Primary - Rheumatoid Arthritis: this is a progressive and uncommon disease where the immune system attacks healthy joints
- Secondary - Osteoarthritis: the cartilage around a joint gets damaged, so new bone forms around the joint. This has no cartilage protecting it and causes stiffness and pain
While arthritis normally affects older cats and worsens with age, cats of any age can have it.
- Old age
- Auto-immune diseases (the immune system attacks its own body)
- Old age
- Disease: hip dysplasia, ligament rupture, joint infection
- Painful joints
- Swollen joints
- Joint stiffness
- Lameness, taking longer to get to its feet, unable to jump or climb
- Loss of appetite
To properly diagnose your cat with arthritis, your veterinarian will begin with the following:
- Review of medical history
- Physical exam: flexing the joints and listening for abnormal joint sounds, as well as looking for swelling or heat in your cat's limbs
Your veterinarian may also perform the following tests:
- CBC blood test(complete blood count): measures the total amount of red and white blood cells in the body
- X-rays of the affected areas: to determine the type of arthritis
- Joint Tap: draining and studying joint fluid
The course of treatment depends mainly on what is causing the disease.
- Infection: antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications
- Obesity: diet change
If treatments are not helping the pain:
- Surgery: fragments of cartilage or bone in the joint can be removed to decrease swelling, and in harrowing cases, the affected joint may be removed
- Dietary supplements: stimulates new cartilage growth in the joints and can alleviate some discomfort
- Veterinarian-developed exercise routine: too much exercise for an arthritic cat can cause severe pain; however, too little exercise will make your cat's joints even stiffer
- Medications: long-term steroids and anti-inflammatory use may alleviate the symptoms
Sometimes arthritis can develop no matter what you do to try to prevent it. Some things can be done to lessen the severity of arthritis in your cat, such as:
- Keeping your cat at a healthy weight. If your cat is overweight, they can cause extra pressures on their joints, leading to inflammation and arthritis to develop
- Giving your cat joint supplements. As your cat ages, its joints can deteriorate. Giving your cat a joint supplement will help decrease the inflammation and arthritis formation in their joints.
There is no cure for arthritis, but your veterinarian can give you treatment options so your cat can live a comfortable life. You should pay attention to your cat's movements, as catching arthritis early leaves more options for your cat to live comfortably.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM