If cats live long enough, they're probably going to suffer the effects of osteoarthritis. The same holds true for people and domestic animals. If your older kitty starts creaking, over-the-counter supplements and prescription medications are available that can make him feel more like his younger self.
Osteoarthritis means the cartilage in the joints starts breaking down. As it progresses and cartilage disintegrates, bones rub on bones, causing pain. While there's no cure for osteoarthritis, some supplements or medications help slow down deterioration, lubricate joints and ease pain. Don't use common human arthritis pain relievers on Kitty, such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Results can be deadly.
Cats are pretty good at hiding early signs of osteoarthritis. As his owner and observer, you'll be able to tell if Kitty starts exhibiting signs of discomfort. Maybe he's stiff when he gets up from naps. Maybe he's just not as active as he used to be. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, signs of arthritis in cats aren't just limited to mobility issues. They also include weight loss, depression, personality change, joint thickening and appetite loss. Kitty might not groom himself as thoroughly as he used to, as trying to lick those hard-to-reach places cause pain.
You can purchase over-the-counter supplements to treat Kitty's arthritis. While some of these supplements are also taken by people, only use those specifically marketed for cats, as the dosage levels for felines and humans will obviously differ. Cosequin, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, reduces inflammation and is safe for long-term use. Methyl-sufonyl-methane, better known as MSM, is a form of sulfur that might offer anti-inflammatory relief. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
Meloxicam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug safely used for pain control in cats and is available in either injectable or pill form. Your vet might prescribe this medication as the arthritis progresses and the pain level increases. Side effects include gastrointestinal problems and liver or kidney disease. If your cat receives Meloxicam, your vet will monitor him regularly and establish the lowest effective dose.
Given as a series of intramuscular injections by your vet, Adequan consists of polysulfated glycosaminoglycan obtained from cattle trachea cartilage. It stimulates cartilage repair while slowing the breakdown process. It has few, if any, side effects and can be used with other arthritis supplements and medications.
Other Help for Kitty
Medications and supplements aren't the only way to help aging cats cope with osteoarthritis. If Kitty is overweight, put him on a diet. Excess weight strains joints. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise. Kitty should be able to access his litter box and food and water bowls easily, without doing a lot of jumping. As the disease progresses and it gets harder for him to reach his favorite sleeping or bird-watching places, provide steps or ramps to aid his efforts. Ask your vet whether acupuncture could help Kitty.
- DVM 360: Osteoarthritis in cats: What We Now Know About Recognition and Treatment
- U.S. Food and Drug Admininstration: Osteoarthritis in Cats: A More Common Disease Than You Might Expect
- DVM 360: Osteoarthritis in Cats -- Treatment
- VetInfo: Treating Arthritis in Your Cat With Cosequin
- VetInfo: Arthritis Supplements for Cats
- VetInfo: Managing Feline Arthritis Pain with Adequan
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.