To support a cat suffering from osteoarthritis, the implementation of a treatment adapted to its needs is essential from the diagnosis. Thanks to a set of therapeutic solutions, your veterinarian will adapt his care to each stage of the disease.
Treatment of osteoarthritis in cats
The therapeutic solutions against osteoarthritis aim to slow the progression of the disease and relieve the pain of the animal. This is both to preserve the comfort and mobility of your cat to ensure the best possible quality of life. For good care, two principles apply:
- Treatment should be determined and prescribed by a veterinarian after diagnosis of the disease.
- It should be specifically designed for cats. Medicines intended for humans can be dangerous for animals.
Osteoarthritis in cats: an incurable disease
There is no cure for arthritis in cats. This incurable and degenerative disease attacks the cartilage of the joints which gradually deteriorates, which causes sharp pain when rubbing the bones.
Osteoarthritis in cats: anti-inflammatory treatments
The first line of treatment for cats with osteoarthritis is to reduce inflammation in the acute phase. In this case, vets prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which both target the inflammation and reduce the pain. The duration of treatment depends on the animal and the progress of the disease, but it is mostly short treatments(1). For severe cases, prolonged treatments may however be necessary, possibly accompanied by painkillers and always closely monitored by a veterinarian.
The use of anti-inflammatory or analgesic injections may also be recommended. Their relevance depends on the pain, the stage of the disease, but also on the animal.
Biotherapies are one of the promising methods to treat many diseases. For osteoarthritis, there are now monoclonal antibodies that directly target the growth factors (NGF) involved in osteoarthritis pain. Thanks to a monthly injection, the pain of the animal is relieved and the inflammation of the joint is reduced.
This targeted therapy has the advantage of being devoid of side effects and interaction with other drugs. It can therefore be administered at the same time as another treatment (antiparasitics, antimicrobials, vaccines, etc.). Its elimination takes place by natural means and places little strain on the liver and kidneys (unlike anti-inflammatory drugs). This is a recent technique that only a veterinarian can administer.
In addition, new stem cell-based treatments are now available. They are considered promising, but remain rare and expensive. Stem cell therapy involves taking cells from the cat itself or from a donor, before injecting them back into the sick animal to stimulate the regeneration of the cartilage.(3).
Chondroprotectors against osteoarthritis in cats
These food supplements play a protective role for the cartilage attacked by osteoarthritis. If their effects have not been undoubtedly demonstrated, they could slow or delay the disease, relieve pain and reduce the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. The virtual absence of side effects makes it possible to combine them with other treatments and to administer them over the very long term.
There are different chondroprotectors, including glucosamine and chondroitin. They can be administered as a cure or over time, as soon as the disease is diagnosed or even as a prevention, according to the veterinarian’s recommendations. They are found in the form of food supplements but also of food enriched in nutrients playing a protective role on the joints, for cat food with osteoarthritis.
Surgery in cat osteoarthritis
The use of surgery remains quite rare and is reserved for the most serious and disabling cases of osteoarthritis in cats. As a last resort, your veterinarian can suggest the fitting of a prosthesis to replace the defective joint of the animal. Arthrodesis consists of definitively immobilizing the joint, preventing movement and therefore pain.
Other therapies to relieve osteoarthritis in cats
Other solutions may be recommended by your veterinarian to treat your cat:
- Acupuncture is an unconventional therapy derived from traditional Chinese medicine. It involves stimulating specific points with the help of fine needles, and can help relieve the pain of osteoarthritis in cats. This alternative medicine is used in addition to or even sometimes as a replacement for pain relievers.
- Thefunctional rehabilitation, or physiotherapy, uses different techniques to keep muscles and joints supple, relieve tension, soothe pain and maintain muscle mass. It can help prevent the disease from worsening as well as restore mobility. It notably includes massage therapy or physiotherapy. Hydrotherapy can also be effective, but is used less, a majority of cats not appreciating water.
- Massage therapy uses massage to improve circulation, relieve muscle tension and loosen tendons. It also offers a relaxing effect that reduces pain and anxiety caused by osteoarthritis.
- Physiotherapy stimulates the muscles and joints of the animal to maintain or restore their mobility through movement. Some physiotherapists supplement the manipulations with techniques such as thermotherapy, using cold or heat, or ultrasound.
- Herbal medicine is a therapy based on plant extracts which aims to reduce pain and inflammation and therefore reduce the use of NSAIDs.
The expertise of your veterinarian is the key to the management of osteoarthritis in cats. Regular monitoring will allow him to adapt the treatment to the rhythm of the animal’s needs, in order to ensure the best possible quality of life over time.
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Article reviewed and validated by veterinarian Dr. Michèle Gorissen
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