Cats can suffer from arthritis as they get older. The symptoms may not be very obvious, so it can be hard to tell if your cat is uncomfortable or if he is just slowing down because of age.
It's easy to notice a problem if your cat is limping but often the only indicator that he has arthritis is that he is less enthusiastic about jumping on the couch or climbing up the stairs.
A very obvious feature of spinal arthritis in your cat is that he stops grooming his lower back and sides. This is because it is physically difficult and painful for him to turn around and reach that part of his body.
Diagnosis is usually based on clinical signs and x-rays.
Treating arthritis in your elderly cat can be a challenge. He can't take many of the medications that are available to dogs and people, because he can't metabolize them. There is one drug that is registered for use in cats but you need to make sure your cat's kidneys are working very well. Otherwise he may develop kidney disease from the very medication that is supposed to make him feel better.
A safer approach in managing your cat's arthritis is to use joint support treatments instead of drugs. These treatments help to restore the cartilage lining his joints so the bones move smoothly against each other. They also make the fluid in his joints more lubricating and shock absorbing which also relieves his symptoms.
These treatments are available as an injection or as a powder that is sprinkled on his meals. Cats can be fussy eaters so you may find your cat responds better to injections.
Don't forget natural therapies. Omega fatty acids are a natural anti-inflammatory which can reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. Green lipped mussel extracts have been shown to be very effective in reducing the signs of arthritis. Acupuncture is very well regarded as a treatment for arthritis in all species. All of these therapies are safe, effective and have no side effects.
Whatever you do, never ever give your cat any medication that hasn't been prescribed for him. Dog and human drugs can make him seriously ill, and may even be fatal.
Arthritis can make life less pleasant for your elderly feline, but there are treatments available that can help him to feel better. Your veterinarian is your partner in making sure your cat enjoys his twilight years as much as possible.
Article courtesy Dr Rosie Brown BVSc (Hons)
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