Most cat owners think arthritis is a dog disease so do not look out for any of its signs and symptoms and by the time the disease is detected it has already caused a lot of muscle loss and function in the body. Arthritis is a joint disease that reduces movement and triggers pain. Feline arthritis can be caused by injury, infection, an auto-immune disorder, degenerative joint problems. Most common form of arthritis in cats is called osteoarthritis or DJD degenerative joint disease. Healthy joints form smooth movement between bones, but in arthritis that smooth surface on the end of the bones is changed into a rough poorly gliding surface for bones. Arthritis damages the joint cartilage by thinning it, reducing the synovial fluid which helps in joint movement and causes formation of bony growth or bone spurs within the joint. Over time the roughness created by the bone spurs can cause pain and reduced joint movement in cats. Most commonly affected joints in felines are elbows, hips and spine.
Signs of arthritis in cats can be reduced movement, changes in grooming behavior, joint swelling, stiffness in movement, changes in personality and in activity level. It is difficult to detect signs of joint disease in cats, especially as cats with arthritis do not limp. Instead they tend to change their behavior towards the common activities. Arthritis in cats can be difficult to detect as the disease progresses slowly and cats do not complain about their aching joints.
Regular checkups can help a vet to detect early signs of arthritis as blood tests and radiography or x-ray can reveal the damage in the joint.
Cats can be very sensitive to medication and food diets, everything should be done with the consultation of a veterinarian.
Pet cats tend to live well into their teens and even early 20s, so most cases of arthritis are not preventable but with regular moderate exercise and a high-quality diet, it can help manage body weight and keep cats musculoskeletal system in good shape. Take the cat for regular checkups with the vet as osteoarthritis can appear gradually with very subtle signs.