How to Help Cats With Arthritis (2022)

Have you noticed your cat is walking more slowly these days? Or walking with a stiffer gait? Does your cat run less often, or not at all? Maybe she has stopped jumping up onto your bed at night to sleep with you and in the morning to greet you? Has she stopped jumping onto your lap like she always used to? Your cat may not only be aging and slowing down, but more likely your cat may have a progressive and painful case of degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA)—an irreversible condition of the joints. Osteoarthritis is not only a serious health problem, it is painful, uncomfortable and debilitating for your cat, physically and emotionally, because it disables and restricts them from doing the physical activities they always enjoyed doing. They can also become depressed and disheartened by their immobility and inability to do what they love – running, jumping, playing and feeling comfortable.

In my case, my cat’s arthritis has been a slow progression over recent years. It seemingly started with his front and hind legs growing stiffer, his gait slower. Jumping onto our bed at night and in the morning, became history. His occasional carefree runs through the house became a thing of the past. Our cat’s normal behavior and physical ability was not what it once was, and I could see he was in pain and needed help. Cats hide suffering and feeling pain. Just because they are not vocalizing their suffering—does not mean they arenotsuffering, or are uncomfortable and feeling pain. To avoid the pain, they lie down more, sleep more, walk less, walk to the water bowl less (and become dehydrated), walk with a limp and lameness favoring one or both legs when they walk, which can really hurt, no longer jump onto laps or the bed—and become depressed. You may notice over time—more irritability, decreased grooming, they may hide more, or have difficulty getting into position in the litter box.

Osteoarthritis is often under-diagnosed and under-treated in cats, until sadly it is very advanced and more difficult to treat. Without treatment, your cat’s pain and discomfort will get worse. Fortunately, there are multiple treatment options for cats that are diagnosed with OA to relieve pain and to improve their quality of life.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Up to 90 percent of cats over 12 years of age show some evidence of osteoarthritis on x-rays. But when your cat is showing physical symptoms like lameness, stiffness, is no longer jumping, and is much less active—it’s time to do something. Some of the most common causes of arthritis in cats are simple joint wear and tear; abnormal hip or joint development; injury or traumatic injury to the joints or a fracture from a jump or accident; obesity or excessive weight and carrying that around over time; and genetics—some breeds of cats are pre-disposed to arthritis due to an abnormal development of the hips or joint cartilage. This is more common in Maine Coons, Persians, Siamese, and Scottish Folds.

What’s Next – A Visit to Your Veterinarian

When you take your cat to the vet, they will do a routine checkup, but if they suspect arthritis—they will check your cat’s range of motion with the front and back legs; watch their gait on the floor as they walk; look for visible joint inflammation and deformity; and will check to see any joint pain during movement of the joints. To confirm their opinion, they will do a couple of x-rays to see your cat’s bones. With an x-ray, your vet can see bony spurs or growths, loss of joint cartilage, thickening and scarring of the connective tissue around the joint, joint inflammation, and any injuries. Once you have a diagnosis, then you can begin a treatment and management plan.

(Video) The PetHealthClub - Arthritis in Cats Explained (including symptoms and treatment options)

Treatment, Management and Prevention

There is no cure for arthritis in cats or in people. The goal will be to minimize further degenerative damage and changes to joints, to alleviate your cat’s discomfort, and to restore the joints functionality. This usually requires multiple types of treatment to relieve discomfort, pain, and stiffness, and prevent further damage to joints.

Managing Weight

First and foremost, is to make sure your cat is not obese or extremely overweight. Excess weight puts pressure and stress on joints and muscles, and over time, can be damaging to your cat’s joints. Your vet can tell you whether your cat needs to go on a diet, but be very careful about how this is done, and do it slowly over several months, depending how many pounds your cat needs to lose, by slowly reducing wet and dry food intake and increasing exercise. Make sure your cat has plenty of access to water bowls and stays well hydrated. Losing weight combined with exercise and activity will help them. Encourage your cat to move more using toys—boosting their walking and running but keep to low impact activities and be careful of your cat’s jumping.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Arthritis causes immobility and pain, so to reduce your cat’s discomfort, provide lots of warm, soft bedding off of hard, cold floors. Keep everything your cat needs, like food, water bowls, and the litter box, accessible on one floor of your home, and you may consider multiple water bowls and litter boxes for ease of access. Make sure they can step into their litter box easily. You can cut a hole in the front to make it easier for them to step in and out. You can also buy a large, low plastic tub so your cat can easily walk into the litter box or buy a tub with tall sides, and cut a low hole in the front so they can step in easily. Sometimes cats with arthritis can stop using litter boxes because it’s too painful for them to get in and out. So make it easy for them.

For your bed, you can provide a ramp at the foot of the bed so your cat can join you. Build a simple ramp with carpet remnants using glue or a staple-gun, and create a stand at the high end, so your plank slopes up to the bed. You can also do this for their favorite place that they can no longer reach, like a couch or a tall cat tree. Here is more aboutbuilding cat ramps, and a page of photos of different types ofDIY ramps. This video can help you build aDIY ramp yourself, including all the materials needed. You can also purchase portable short steps or a short staircase from stores like Marshalls, PETCO, Amazon, andChewy, that are inexpensive.

(Video) Arthritis - What you can do at home to help your cat

Supplements

Omega-3 Fish Oil for Cats

Studies have been conducted that show Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in cats and dogs. Supplementing your cat’s diet by adding omega-3 fish oil can help improve the clinical signs of arthritis. You can ask your vet for omega-3 fish oil supplements, or you can buy specially-formulated omega-3 supplements made for small dogs and cats on Amazon or Chewy.Vetoquinol Care Triglyceride Omega Supplement for Small Dogs and Cats,is an excellent brand for cats and small dogs, and is only $13. It is easy to open a gel pill and mix it right into your cat’s wet food once a day.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin/Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG)

Joint supplements, known as chondroprotective agents, like glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG), can work well to reduce inflammation, slow the breakdown of cartilage, and provide the agents to help build new cartilage. These are harvested from sea mollusks. One made specifically for cats isDasuquin Capsules, formulated specifically for cats’ weight and system with the right balance of glucosamine and chondroitin to support cats’ joint health. You can find Dasuquin through your veterinarian or onChewyorAmazon.Be sure to follow the instructions for dosage. There is a newer derivative of glucosamine (called N-Butyryl Glucosamine, GlcNBu, or Gluco Blue) that has become available for cats as well, with a more rapid onset of effectiveness, from 2 weeks, instead of Dasuquin’s 4 to 6 weeks. There is also an injectable PSGAG that your vet can discuss with you that is faster and longer-lasting than the oral form, but it is more expensive as well. Remember, these supplements take weeks to build up in the body and become effective. You must give them daily for 4-6+ weeks before getting detectible results, so persevere, and don’t give up. With supplements, be sure you are buying a product specifically formulated for a cat; it is a legitimate product; by an excellent pet brand, and make sure you get your vet’s approval and recommendation first. Look for the National Animal Supplement Council seal or ask for your vet’s recommendation.

Note:Do not useflax seed oil, as it cannot be converted in a cat’s body to omega-3 fatty acids, like it is in the human body. Cats need fish oil, not flax seed oil. Your veterinarian will stock an appropriate one with the proper dosage.Do not giveyour cat Cod Liver Oil either – it causes vitamin A toxicity in cats and dogs and can be a real problem for their liver.

Adequan® Injections

Adequan® is an injectible polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (mostly chondroitin sulfate). It is an injectable instead of an oral medication and is used to both heal cartilage and as an anti-inflammatory agent. It is given as a series of injections and can safely be given to cats in a dosage based on your cat’s weight. Injections can be done in your veterinarian’s office or cat owners can learn to give these sub-cutaneous injections yourself by having your vet teach you. The standard is injections are given twice a week for four weeks, then every other week, then once a month to maintain the effect. It will save you time and money to learn to give these injections yourself, and your cat can stay comfortably at home. Personally, I have used Adequan® at home for several years now on my cats that have arthritis and it has worked very well for them. Adequan® has a number of benefits including cartilage repair, increasing joint lubrication, and inhibiting harmful enzymes that destroy joint cartilage.

(Video) Top 3 Cat Arthritis Treatments - Make Your Cat Feel Better!

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help your cat if you have a holistic vet near you who is licensed in giving acupuncture. If so, you can start with a consult or evaluation with the holistic vet, to see how many treatments will be needed and how often. Treatments will be more frequent in the beginning, becoming less frequent over time. To maintain the benefit, treatments likely will need to continue for some period of time. The first treatments are the longest, then typically, they will run about 30-40 minutes in length.

Massage and Heating Pads

Like with people, arthritis can benefit from heat and massage. Lightly massaging your cat’s neck, back, and muscles, can help spasming and tight muscles caused by arthritis. So can giving your cat mild heat. You can use specially made heating pads for cats that are adjusted to a low or warm setting. But cats should not lie directly on the pad nor sleep, for any prolonged period of time. So, monitor your cat’s use of a heating pad. Some thermo-beds made specifically for cats are made by K&H Pet Products and are available onChewy.com. If you have outdoor cats, here are some heated cat beds that can besafely used outdoors. You can also buy microwavableheat disksandcushionsfor outdoor use (and indoor). With both, be careful to add an extra layer of insulation above the disk to prevent the cat from being exposed to too much heat or extreme heat that could burn them.

Safe Pain Relief for Cats

Gabapentin

Gabapentin is a good pain relief medication for cats available through your veterinarian. It is particularly beneficial for neurological/spinal pain as it modifies how pain is transmitted in the spinal cord. It also has strong anti-anxiety effects and can also make your cat drowsy as well. It is used as a tranquilizer in higher dosages in cats, when needed. It comes in a capsule that can be cut (use a pill cutter) in half or quarters for a smaller dosage. Gabapentin is also good to have on hand if you have cats, as it is a good go-to drug for reducing pain and anxiety, safely.

Tramadol and Amantadine

(Video) Arthritis - Treatment options for cats

Both of these drugs are narcotics, and used a pain reliever, but since they are narcotics, they need to be discussed with your veterinarian and prescribed only by your veterinarian.

NO Human NSAIDs

Neverever use human NSAIDs or aspirin on cats. It is dangerous and not considered safe pain relief for them. A cat’s liver cannot process human NSAIDs and they can cause liver failure in cats quickly. There is no approved NSAID for long-term feline use in the U.S.

Alternative Therapies

Cannabinoids

Since there are numerous legal, regulatory, and type/dosage issues around giving hemp products to cats and dogs, I am not going to address it in this article. Though hemp products may decrease the “perception of pain,” they cannot replace the products and practices noted above to actually reduce your cat’s cartilage damage, build new cartilage, reduce inflammation, and increase mobility and long-term improvement.

Conclusion

Most of the time, degeneration of the joints cannot be reversed, but preventing the progression of damage and reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis is very possible. Combining some of the several options presented above will generate better results than using one single approach. The combination of weight management, proper daily exercise,reducing your cat’s jumping and any damaging joint activity, givingomega-3 fish oil supplements, givingchondroprotective joint supplements, providing soft bedding off hard floor surfaces, giving Adequan® injections (if recommended by your vet), and Gabapentin (only if needed for pain relief), can make your cat more comfortable, happier and improve their joint disease in both the short and long run.

(Video) Top 5 Ways to Treat Arthritis in Your Cat or Dog (Without Surgery)

Photo Credit: Header Photo byGabriel MaiafromPexels

FAQs

How can I help my cat with severe arthritis? ›

Home Remedies for Cat Arthritis

Providing a ramp up to places they like to rest — such as your bed, a couch, or a window seat. Providing a litter box with one low side for easy access. Keeping everything your cat needs — like the litter box, food, and water — on one floor of your house. Using soft brushes for grooming.

Does catnip help cats with arthritis? ›

8 Medicinal Uses for Catnip

Anti-inflammatory: Can be used orally and/or topically to reduce swelling from arthritis, soft tissue injuries, or hemorrhoids.

How can I treat my cats arthritis naturally? ›

Glucosamine and chondroitin - the two most common joint supplements. They have a positive influence on cartilage health by improving cartilage repair and maintenance in the joints. Essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA) - The omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects.

What causes arthritis flare ups in cats? ›

Rainy days and cold weather cause flare ups in arthritic symptoms in animals just like in people. It is important to ask your veterinarian what type of supportive care they would recommend. There are other signs that your cat may be suffering from arthritis.

Does CBD oil help arthritis in cats? ›

CBD oil for cats helps kitties that have developed arthritis by decreasing pain sensations, restoring their energy, and helping to improve mobility. Cats that refuse to eat can get into big trouble rather quickly. CBD oil for cats is great for helping to restore their appetite, so he can keep his good health.

How do you massage a cat with arthritis? ›

How to Massage your Arthritic Cat
  1. Ensure that both you and your cat are in the mood for the massage. ...
  2. Lay your kitty down on a comfortable surface or your lap.
  3. Start to rub her legs concentrating on the joints and the surrounding areas.
  4. Start gently with slow circular motions.
  5. Your cat should stay relaxed the whole time.
Jul 6, 2021

What is a good anti-inflammatory for cats? ›

Only two NSAIDs are FDA-approved for cats: meloxicam (sold under several brand names) and robenacoxib (sold under the brand name ONSIOR).

How can I ease my cats pain? ›

Massage & heat therapy. You can provide gentle massages for your cat especially if they're experiencing stiffness in their joints. Heat therapy utilizes the same strategy as with humans, warming up problem areas to help relieve pain.

Do they make Dognip? ›

Dognip is sold either fresh or dried. It is the dried dognip that has the highest concentration of the ingredient that dogs respond to.

Can you reverse arthritis in cats? ›

Arthritis cannot be reversed, however, it can be managed and even prevented in some cases.

How much turmeric should I give my cat? ›

¼ teaspoon for cats or small breeds, daily. ½ teaspoon daily for 10 - 20 kg dogs.

What supplement can I give my cat for arthritis? ›

Cats with arthritis can benefit from chondroprotectants (supplements that promote the health of cartilage). A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or extracts from green lipped mussels are commonly used and can be mixed into the food or given as pills.

When should you put your cat down? ›

Signs that your cat is in pain and may no longer have a good quality of life can include:
  1. not eating or drinking.
  2. vomiting.
  3. difficulty breathing.
  4. avoiding physical contact.
  5. sitting or lying in an unusual position.
  6. excessive shaking.
  7. crying.
  8. disorientation or confusion.
Mar 30, 2022

How do I know if my cat is in pain from arthritis? ›

Cat Arthritis Symptoms

Hesitancy to jump up to favorite spots like a chair or window ledge. Limping is rare, but it is common for the pet to be stiff when getting up from lying down. Taking longer or being unable to go up or down the stairs. Napping or resting more frequently than usual.

Can cats have injections for arthritis? ›

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Solensia (frunevetmab injection), the first treatment for the control of pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats and the first monoclonal antibody (mAb) new animal drug approved by the FDA for use in any animal species.

How do you treat osteoarthritis in cats? ›

Treatment options for cats with osteoarthritis are limited. Non-drug treatment options include weight loss for overweight cats, increased exercise, and environmental accommodations, like using litter pans with lower sides for ease of entering and exiting, elevating food and water bowls, and providing soft bedding.

What does gabapentin do to a cat? ›

Gabapentin works by blocking certain receptors in the brain that are responsible for transmitting pain signals. This reduces the pain sensation felt by your cat and helps to reduce their stress levels. Gabapentin is a safe medication for cats with few side effects when taken at the correct dose.

Videos

1. Alternative Therapy for Pain and Arthritis in Cats and Dogs | Holistic Vet
(Healthcare for Pets)
2. Old Cat In Pain? 5 Natural Options
(Veterinary Secrets)
3. Cat Arthritis
(atpainlab)
4. Limping Cat? Try this Holistic Antibiotic and Natural Pain Killer
(Veterinary Secrets)
5. Arthritis in Cats
(Kitten Life)
6. How to spot arthritis in your cat
(BoehringerUK)

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