Less known than its canine version, cat osteoarthritis is however just as common. This degenerative joint disease causes crippling pain over the long term, especially without adequate treatment. To take care of your pet and know how to react when necessary, watch for the symptoms of feline osteoarthritis!
What is osteoarthritis in cats?
Osteoarthritis is an incurable joint disease that affects both animals and humans. As with humans or dogs, among others, osteoarthritis in cats occurs when the joints lose the protection that prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. The cartilage that covers the ends of two neighboring bones is degraded and the quality of the synovial fluid contained in the joint capsule connecting the two bones is depleted. Smooth and elastic, cartilage forms a protective layer that prevents friction and absorbs shock. The joint capsule, on the other hand, produces the fluid which serves as a lubricant for the bones and provides nutrients necessary for the regeneration of the cartilage.
When this deteriorates, the shocks caused by the movements impact the joint capsule harder, affecting the quality and consistency of the synovial fluid. As a result, cartilage repairs itself less well and deteriorates faster. The friction intensifies between the bones, causing inflammation with pain and loss of mobility as a result. Over time and without adequate management, osteoarthritis in cats generates chronic pain which can lead to complete blockage of the limb (s) concerned.
When to watch for symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats?
The vast majority of cats develop osteoarthritis as a result of the aging of the joints and therefore the wear and tear of the cartilage. Cat arthritis therefore affects 80% of animals over 11 years old. However, the disease does not only affect older cats, and many factors can cause its onset prematurely:
- injury or trauma resulting in injury,
- a malformation,
- physical hyperactivity.
Cat arthritis most commonly affects the elbows and hips, but the tarsi and knees can also be affected.
Watch out for symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats
Faced with osteoarthritis, the cat’s sensitivity often pushes him to adopt anxious behaviors, more easily spotted than the physical symptoms. If he tends to hide his pain or to isolate himself, the disease can however be detected in sometimes subtle, but revealing changes in attitude. If your pet is less dynamic, take the time to take a closer look at their behavior. Alert yourself if you notice:
- that he is less playful and less active in general;
- that he is irritable;
- that he no longer occupies his favorite place;
- that he hides more often;
- that he is less cuddly and / or enjoys being touched less.
The pain and discomfort can make him cranky, even aggressive when you try to touch him. He may also frequently, or even compulsively, lick a specific area. Loss of appetite or constipation can also be indicators.
How your cat looks when it comes to osteoarthritis
Also monitor your pet’s general condition, other than cat osteoarthritis. The movements necessary for a feline’s toilet can become painful in cases of osteoarthritis, causing it to space out the cleanings. If he seems less clean to you, his coat is less shiny and his coat more tousled, he probably does not take care of it as well. In this case, it is important to understand the cause. The same goes for weight: a cat in pain moves less, and the decline in exercise can lead to loss of muscle mass. If you have the impression that his line has become thinner, take a closer look at his daily rhythm and the way he moves.
Osteoarthritis of the cat: stiffness and lameness
Unlike dogs, lameness is a symptom that is difficult to observe in cats, with the exception of stiffness upon awakening. Some people have no lameness before the joint has completely locked, or even no symptoms before they can no longer jump. The difference will be rather visible in his behavior and habits. Osteoarthritis in cats causes discomfort that will push them to preserve themselves by moving less. He can thus jump less high, avoid leaping and refuse to play. It happens that it stops climbing its preferred surfaces to favor low locations. When osteoarthritis sets in, some cats also struggle to reach or step over their litter box. If your pet urinates regularly before or next to the litter box, a vet check-up may be needed.
Spotting the symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats can be tricky. Felines are more discreet in the face of pain, and many symptoms merge with those of normal aging. An early diagnosis remains essential to maintain the comfort of your pet’s life. In the event of a change in behavior, do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian.
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Article reviewed and validated by veterinarian Dr. Michèle Gorissen
To read also: Osteoarthritis of the cat: prevention, symptoms and treatment