By Dr. Austin Fetner
New advances in technology in the veterinary field are allowing patients to live longer lives. This is good news for pet owners; however, this also means veterinary clinics are seeing a rapid increase in the number of geriatric patients. One of the most common and under-diagnosed disease in feline geriatric patients is osteoarthritis.
Feline osteoarthritis is a cartilage degenerative disease that involves the joints. Over time, the cartilage breaks down, and the bones will begin to have contact with each other, creating friction, causing pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility.
Feline osteoarthritis is common, but tends to fall under the radar since cats are known to be good at hiding their pain and discomfort. Owners will begin to notice limping or lameness, and even an inability or reluctance to jump up or down onto various areas, as well as a change in height and frequency. Taking radiographs and assessing the appearance of an osteoarthritic joint can be difficult to analyze.
If lameness or stiffness is noted, or the feline has altered jumping activities, a complete history and physical examination should be done. Those results are compared with results of earlier exams in order to determine the next diagnostic test to be considered. Looking at radiographs, weight loss, range of motion in a joint, stiffness, and pain response will allow veterinarians the ability to better define and validate the manifestation of the degenerative disease.
Once a correlation between radiographic findings and clinical diagnosis is affirmed then recommendations and treatment options can be made to minimize the duration and severity of the disease.
There are several treatments available for this chronic, painful disease:
· Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)/Pain medications
· Dietary modulation for weight loss, if the cat is overweight
· Nutraceuticals (special diets, treats, injectables, pills, liquids, use of omega-3 fatty acids, Glucosamine/Chondroitin)
· Physical Therapy
· Laser Therapy
· Surgical- joint replacement therapy
It is important to note that if you have a pet with osteoarthritis it is helpful to provide litter pans with low sides for the cat’s ease of entering and exiting the litter box, and if they can no longer get into the litter box, using puppy pads will help prevent accidents. Elevating their food and water bowls is also helpful, as well as providing steps for high places they can no longer reach.