Arthritis in Cats | Symptoms and Treatment

arthritis in cats

Arthritis in cats, also known as feline arthritis, is very common in cats, particularly as they get older.

The signs of arthritis can be very subtle and hard for us to detect.

Therefore, cat owners need to look out for the signs or symptoms so we can help our cats remain comfortable.

Feline arthritis is not dangerous or fatal but can be discomforting for your older cat.

Arthritis in Cats

Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, in cats is a result of joint damage.

Cats can develop arthritis in their hips, elbows, lower back and knees.

A normal cat has cartilage that acts as a buffer around each joint which creates a cushion around the bones that form the joint.

When the joint becomes damaged, the cartilage is destroyed and the result is the bones rubbing together since there is no cushion between the joints.

When this occurs, the cat will become arthritic.

Although less common in cats, when arthritis does occur, it tends to affect the elbow joint the most.

Symptoms

Cats that suffer from arthritis will demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • Lethargic
  • Joints swell
  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Decreased activity
  • Trouble getting in and out of the litterbox
  • Hesitant to jump or climb
  • Behavioral changes – anxious and restless
  • Difficulty sleeping or finding a comfortable sleeping position

Causes

There are a few reasons why cats become arthritic:

  • Aging – the joints naturally degenerate and become less flexible.
  • Injury – dislocation or infection of the joint.
  • Extra weight – the excess weight can cause strain on a cat’s joints.
  • Congenital abnormalities – any abnormality in a joint can be a factor such as hip dysplasia.

Diagnosis

Make sure to take your cat to the vet if you see any of the symptoms of arthritis.

Your vet will usually conduct a full physical exam, take radiographs and other diagnostic tests.

The tests will help your vet locate where the pain is in your cat and if the joints are inflamed.

Cost and Treatment

Arthritis, once it sets in, is not curable but your veterinarian can give you some treatment options to minimize the pain such as:

  • Prescription pain medications
  • Nutritional supplements to help restore the cartilage
  • Tips for weight loss if the cat is overweight
  • Minimal exercise is encouraged in arthritic cats
  • Surgery, if the joint has lost cartilage due to a torn ligament or dislocated knee cap

If you want to make sure your cat exercises a little, short play sessions should be OK.

Any jumping or vigorous play should be avoided.

The on-going medication could cost anywhere from $25 to $100 a month.

In extreme cases, your cat might have to have surgery which could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.

Pet Insurance

While feline arthritis is not that expensive to treat, pet insurance can save you on your prescription costs as well as other non-invasive treatments like acupuncture and massage.

Healthy Paws, for example, includes alternative therapy treatments, in all their plans.

If your vet does prescribe pain medication, your cat’s blood and urine might need to be monitored to make sure that your cat’s kidneys and liver are still functioning properly.

These ongoing diagnostic tests can add up and pet insurance will offset the cost.

Make sure that you sign up with pet insurance before the arthritis is considered pre-existing.

In fact, pet insurance can help offset the cost of many common health conditions in cats.

Management

If your cat has arthritis, there are many things you can do to make your cat comfortable:

  • Make sure her bed is cozy and comfortable.
  • Massage the joints that are arthritic
  • Help groom the parts of her body that she can’t with a soft brush
  • Make sure her access to the litterbox is easy (you can remove the top)
  • Easy access to food and water bowls

While feline arthritis can be uncomfortable for your cat, it can be managed.

As always, if your cat is getting worse or shows more severe signs of pain, take your cat to the vet for further diagnosis.

If you want to take a look at pet insurance before any illness or injury occurs with your cat, our top cat insurance companies is a great place to start!

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