Rheumatism, arthritis and arthritis of the cat are joint attacks affecting many felines. How to recognize and differentiate them? Find out everything you need to know to understand them properly.
What is the difference between rheumatism and osteoarthritis in cats?
In humans, osteoarthritis and arthritis both belong to the rheumatism family, a generic term for painful conditions of the joints. For animals, however, the term is not used. Osteoarthritis in cats is differentiated by its degenerative character, arthritis by its inflammatory character.
Understanding Cat Osteoarthritis
In cats as in humans, osteoarthritis affects the mechanism of the joints, hence its term “mechanical” disease. It is a degenerative and incurable disease in which the cartilage protecting the ends of the bones gradually deteriorates. When it becomes too thin or disappears, the unprotected bone walls rub painfully against each other during movement. Flare-ups can also be a symptom.
The degradation of cartilage is a phenomenon that occurs naturally during aging of the joints: near 80% of cats over 11 years old have osteoarthritis. However, it can appear prematurely or be accelerated by other factors such as bone, joint, ligament or muscle injury. Deformities, poor nutrition, overweight or hyperactivity of the animal can also influence. Whatever the cause, osteoarthritis in cats does not cure.
Understanding Cat Arthritis
This time it is an inflammatory disease. It causes a thickening of the membrane that lines the joint capsule located between two bones. This then secretes a surplus of liquid, which usually acts as a lubricant. When fluid builds up, it compresses the joint and can also produce destructive enzymes. Chronic or prolonged inflammation can damage cartilage, bones, ligaments and tendons, in this case promoting the development of osteoarthritis. Cat arthritis can occur at any age, and can be septic or non-septic.
- Septic arthritis is infectious, in other words, caused by bacteria entering the heart of the joint. It remains relatively rare and usually occurs following an infection of the blood, an operation or a trauma that exposed the joint: surgery or open fracture, for example.
- Non-septic arthritis is the most common form, especially when it is of immunological origin. The immune system then reacts against the synovial membrane of the joints, as in polyarthritis, which affects several joints at the same time. There are also metabolic causes, when deposits build up in the joint.
What is the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis in cats?
Cat arthritis and osteoarthritis belong to the same family of rheumatism. Although sometimes difficult to differentiate from the outside, it is nevertheless a question of two diseases distinct.
Osteoarthritis is a mechanical disease: it affects the joint. Arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory disease: it creates a reaction in the joint. Pain and appearance are the most glaring differences.
The pain :
- Arthritis pain most often occurs when the joints are not warmed up. They can therefore occur and even increase at night, at rest, when the animal is motionless.
- Osteoarthritis pain is caused by the friction of bones devoid of cartilage. They amplify when the animal is in motion. When the cat is still, the pain is less severe. However, the animal may be stiff and in pain when moving after a period of rest.
- In arthritis, the accumulation of fluid due to the inflammation visibly swells the affected joint. It is red, hot, and painful to the touch.
- Conversely, osteoarthritis in cats is generally invisible. Unless there is a one-time inflammatory flare, the joint retains its appearance and remains cool to the touch.
What is the difference in treatment between arthritis and osteoarthritis in cats?
Septic, or infectious, arthritis is the subject of a specific antibiotic treatment in order to eradicate the bacteria present. In some cases, your vet may suggest a joint wash. This type of treatment targets the cause of arthritis.
Cat arthritis and non-septic arthritis require combined therapeutic solutions. These aim to act on the symptoms, in order to calm the pain of the animal, to preserve its mobility and to slow down the progression of the disease.
- The drugs anti-inflammatory drugs act on inflammation;
- Analgesics soothe the pain;
- Biotherapies such as monoclonal antibodies to quickly and effectively relieve pain and inflammation;
- Food supplements help strengthen the joints;
- Functional treatments such as acupuncture or physiotherapy primarily target motor skills by maintaining joint flexibility and muscle mass, but can also act on pain.
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Cat arthritis and osteoarthritis are two disabling diseases that are common in older animals. Both can impact animal welfare and mobility when not taken care of quickly. If you notice a change in your cat’s behavior or movements, do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian to detect them as soon as possible!
Article reviewed and validated by veterinarian Dr. Michèle Gorissen
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