A breakthrough arthritis treatment for cats
By Tahlia Mitchell | Dated July 15, 2022
As your cat ages, you may notice that they begin to slow down and spend more time resting. Whilst these changes can be associated with aging (or even the colder weather!), they may be more subtle indicators of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that causes stiffness and soreness in cats, particularly as they become older. It can be difficult to diagnose osteoarthritis as cats are the masters of hiding pain – they are less likely to display the typical signs of arthritis that we expect to see in dogs and even humans such as limping, struggling on walks, and being slow to rise after rest.
Changes associated with osteoarthritis can be subtle. They may include:
- Refusing or hesitating to jump up or down
- May appear ‘stiff and creaky’
- Reduced activity levels – sleeping or resting more
- A more dishevelled, unkempt appearance
- Less playful and keen to interact
- May be more grumpy or quieter than usual
A diagnosis may be further confirmed with X-rays, but often lifestyle and behavioural changes alone can make a big difference.
There are several things that you can do to make your pet more comfortable at home:
- Provide comfortable bedding
- Provide steps and ramps to higher areas that your cat likes to access
- Provide easy access to food and water – consider elevating these on a small platform so that your cat does not need to bend over to drink/eat.
- Ensuring that there is at least one litter tray per cat in your household. A litter tray with shallow sides is ideal so that your cat can easily walk into it. A great idea is to cut down one of the sides of a large storage container – this enables your cat to walk in easily whilst ensuring that the litter does not fly everywhere!
- Interacting and playing gently with your cat to encourage exercise and mental stimulation. Food puzzles such as an egg carton or toilet rolls filled with food can provide good stimulation.
- Brush your cat regularly as they may not be able to groom themselves.
- Provide lower or horizontal scratching stations. You can also help to trim your cats nails.
There are a number of treatment options that can greatly reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and improve your cat’s quality of life. These include joint supplement injections (Cartrophen®) that promote the production of healthy joint fluid and cartilage and also help in reducing inflammation. These injections are usually given as 4x weekly injections every 6 months.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers (Meloxicam) may also be prescribed for your cat, particularly if there is significant discomfort present. This is a liquid that you can put in your cat’s food daily. Although this type of medication is often highly effective, there is the risk of undesirable side effects including vomiting and diarrhoea and care does need to be taken in cats with chronic kidney disease. We will often advise that your cat has a blood test before commencing this type of medication.
A new medication that has recently been released for the treatment of feline osteoarthritis in Australia is Solensia®. This medication has been shown to be effective in managing pain associated with osteoarthritis, with the benefit of having lesser undesirable side effects that are sometimes seen with other osteoarthritis medications. It is also safe to use in cats with chronic kidney disease and has the added benefit of being a monthly injection – saving the hassle of daily medication!
This new medication now available at our hospital – please contact us if you would like to learn more!
Written by Victoria Liu, final year veterinary student while on placement at Gordon Vet Hospital.