Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease, in which cartilage that cushions the joint is worn away, leading to inflammation, pain and reduced quality of life.

Some studies have shown that as many as 90% of cats over the age of twelve have arthritis, but it can be recognised in cats as young as two.

Factors that increase the risk of OA include injury or trauma to joints, genetic problems such as hip dysplasia or patella luxation, infection and obesity.

Members of our Practice Plan receive unlimited consultations throughout the year – perfect for cats that need conditions such as arthritis monitoring and managing!

Signs of arthritis

It can be very difficult to recognise OA in cats, as they are experts in hiding discomfort and pain.

As cats get older owners often expect them to slow down and many cats don’t display overt signs of limping or pain.

It is worth keeping an eye out for subtle changes in behaviour which may be signs of arthritis. These include:

  • Decreased mobility
  • Hesitancy to jump up or down
  • Difficulty going into the litter tray
  • Difficulty going up/down stairs
  • Changes in hygiene or grooming
  • Licking over painful joints
  • Changes in mood and irritability
  • Lying in different places
  • Reduced activity

Diagnosis of arthritis

Diagnosis is often based on the clinical signs of pain, swelling or reduced movement in joints.

X-rays can be taken to confirm, but these are rarely required.

We may need to rule out other diseases in cats with urine or blood tests.

Management of arthritis

Although OA cannot be cured, there are many ways in which the condition can be managed to improve your cat’s quality of life.

Changes at home

  • Use soft comfortable beds in an easy access location
  • Use steps or ramps to help your cat access any high spots they like
  • Buy a litter tray with at least one low side for easy access
  • Make sure food and water bowls are not upstairs
  • Groom your cat if they will tolerate it to prevent matts building up

Diet and supplements

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight is very important as being overweight will exacerbate arthritis and put your cat at risk of other diseases.

We can advise on suitable diets and our nurses run weight clinics to guide you on controlled weight loss for your cat.

Several supplements for arthritis are available for cats. These contain essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation and glucosamine and chondroitin which help to improve quality of cartilage.

There is limited evidence of their effectiveness, but they are unlikely to have any side effects and can be useful in playing a part in managing the disease.

Medical treatments

The most common drugs used for OA are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce pain and inflammation.

We will be able to discuss the options, potential side effects and monitoring required for these drugs during your consultation.

In some cases we may use additional drugs for pain relief such as tramadol, gabapentin or amantadine.

Solensia is a monthly injection given to cats with arthritis which reduces pain signals. It is safe to be used in many cats with concurrent health problems.

Additional treatments such as acupuncture or physiotherapy can be useful in certain patients.

Often a combination of all the above will be used to try to manage your cat’s condition and improve their quality of life.