You've noticed that Kitty has starting having accidents outside his litter box because it's tough for him to get in and out. Maybe he's starting walking with a limp. These are telltale signs that Kitty has developed arthritis, making it difficult for him to get around.
What is Arthritis?
Like the human variety, feline arthritis is caused by the degradation of cartilage in joints. Cartilage is the stuff that cushions Kitty's joints, acting like a shock absorber when he moves. As he ages, cartilage breaks down and can cause stiffness, swelling and pain in his joints. Injury, dislocation and obesity increase his risk of developing achy joints. It's most common in his elbows, but it can present in most of his joints. This includes his hips, especially if he has a deformity called hip dysplasia.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a deformed hip joint where the femur, Kitty's leg bone, doesn't fit into the socket joint of his hip. When he's a kitten, you won't notice anything odd, since his hip joint hasn't fully formed yet. As he ages, he won't get around very well. You may think he's lazy since he'll avoid play because of pain. As the joint degrades slowly over time, arthritis will likely develop. Larger cats, like the Maine coon, are more at risk for hip dysplasia since they have less cushioning on their joints. The cause is genetic; both of his parents either had to have hip dysplasia or be carriers of the gene for him to get it.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If Kitty seems lethargic or lazy and appears to limp, he should visit his vet. The vet will take X-rays to examine the joint to determine if your kitty has hip dysplasia or arthritis in his hips. In severe cases, Kitty may need surgery to repair the faulty joint with a prosthetic. Most cases can be treated with anti-inflammatory medicines, which reduce pain and swelling. If Kitty is chubby, speak with his vet about putting him on a weight-loss plan. Slimming down will reduce the pressure on the joints and can relieve pain.
Glucosamine for Healthy Joints
Glucosamine is a dietary supplement that will promote joint mobility and cartilage flexibility. It's derived from crustaceans and is comprised of glutamine and glucose. You can add glucosamine in a liquid form directly to the food your cat is eating now, or you can buy a commercial food formulated for join health that contains it already. It has no known drug interactions and is considered safe. Some cats may experience some throwing up or diarrhea when taking it in high doses, but it is rare. If your kitty is diabetic, speak to his vet before starting glucosamine. Since glucose, a simple sugar, is one of the two main components, it could cause Kitty's blood sugar to spike. It'll take eight weeks before you start to see improvement in his joints. If glucosamine works for him, he should stay on it for the rest of his life. Joint damage may return if discontinued.