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New help for cats with OA (Osteoarthritis)

New help for cats with OA (Osteoarthritis)

Posted by Patricia on 25th Aug 2023

I have arthritis. Through the years, several of my dogs have also dealt with the same condition. My cats seemed to have fared better until recently when my Siamese mix, Daphne, stopped climbing up her scratching post. She's usually a levitating maniac, so her avoidance of this activity became a concern.

It didn't dawn on me that Daphne might have arthritis until we visited our veterinarian, who suspected Osteoarthritis (OA). She explained that it's the most common form of arthritis in cats but added that it's a challenging diagnosis.

Per the FDA, cited below, "The most frequently-affected joints in cats are the elbows and hips, although shoulders and hocks (ankles) have also been reported. Arthritis in the backbone and sternum is also common." Interestingly, OA is found in all animal species, including mice, horses, and even insects. Snakes can also acquire OA, as noted by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), cited below. Some people classify OA as a "degenerative joint disease," meaning it breaks down cartilage within joints, creating pain. This chronic pain doesn't go away and affects the quality of life for both humans and animals suffering from it. The FDA describes how OA occurs for most animals this way: "Eventually, the bones in the joint rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint movement, and sometimes the formation of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint."

OA is hard to diagnose because cats, more often than dogs, tolerate bone and joint pain. Also, most cats do not like being handled by strangers during an exam and may balk at any movement. The FDA notes, "Your veterinarian may have a hard time deciding whether your cat is pulling its foot away because of pain or simply because it doesn't want to be touched."

If your cat is normally fearful of being picked up or if different environments make them anxious, you can help your vet diagnose OA. A few days before your appointment, observe and document your cat's activity - or lack thereof - and report your findings the day you see the vet. Sometimes, OA will be an assumed diagnosis, and treatment will be initiated to see if things improve. There are several choices available for cats with OA.

Most cats - up to 90% - over age 12 are affected by OA. If your cat is diagnosed with this form of arthritis, the treatment will focus on managing pain rather than curing the disease. In OA cases with animals and humans, minimizing pain and maximizing function will count as successes.

Several medications are on the market to help with OA pain, including one recently receiving FDA approval. Ask your vet about which would be most beneficial for your kitty’s arthritis. In addition to medicine, your vet may also prescribe exercise. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, cited below, "With OA joints, we know that cats need to use it or lose it. Regular moderate exercise contributes to better joint health, even in the face of OA. Most cats can learn to use a harness and leash allowing them to take walks with human family members. Typically, they want to lead the way rather than heel like their canine counterparts."

My Daphne was prescribed a newer medication and is back to menacing her laser pointers and climbing her scratching tree. Other cats might benefit from playing with feathers or rolling around with toys sprinkled with catnip. Another suggestion from VCA Animal Hospital is, "You can also place their food in multiple areas of the house or in a treat ball so they have to 'hunt' to eat."

Hopefully, you will also explore non-traditional arthritis treatment options, which VCA Animal Hospital lists: physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, laser therapy, and massage. Your vet can direct you to qualified practitioners of each option.

Remember how I said all animal species are capable of developing OA? It turns out that there is an exception, after all. Kangaroos bounce around up to 40 mph, with little risk of arthritis until they reach advanced age. They have a cartilage structure in their knees which enables them to withstand the forces of repeated bending and the impact of hard landing. Perhaps scientists would do well to study kangaroo cartilage structure and find ways to duplicate it for other animals and humans with OA.

Quote to remember: "Cats are a mysterious kind of folk." - Sir Walter Scott


Food and Drug Administration (FDA),jump%20on%20and%20off%20objects.

"Osteoarthritis in Cats: More Common Than You Think"

VCA Animal Hospitals,and%20function%20while%20minimizing%20pain.

"Helping Your Cat with Osteoarthritis"

National Library of Medicine (NIH),aquatic%20Cretaceous%20snake%20Lunaophis%20aquaticus.

"Spondyloarthropathy in vertebrae of the aquatic Cretaceous snake Lunaophis aquaticus, and its first recognition in modern snakes"