It is difficult to tell when a cat has arthritis.
As cats age, they become less active and sleep more. It is sometimes difficult to know what is due to slowing down and aging versus having actual arthritic changes causing them discomfort.
Arthritis in cats shows up in a few different ways: They may become more hesitant to jump, they may become unable to jump (without any change in weight), they lift themselves from a resting position with more stiffness. Their gait may become slower or they may cry or meow loudly when you pick them up.
Cats are a little more challenging to treat because they do not respond to medications the way dogs do. They are more sensitive to traditional drugs, such as NSAIDs, which means that there are not as many treatments for them when it comes to pain.
However, here are some options to consider if your cat suffers from arthritis:
1) Traditional veterinary treatments:
The drugs occasionally prescribed for arthritis and pain in cats include Tramadol, Buprenorphine and Gabapentin. These are all medications that affect the perception of pain and work on the central nervous system. They have no anti-inflammatory effects. In general, cats tolerate them pretty well. Most side effects include drowsiness and sometimes incoordination. Gabapentin is being more frequently used in cats for anxiety, after a recent study showed that this medicine had positive effects for stressed cats being transported to the veterinarian. In general, arthritis does not affect the quality of life in cats the way it does in dogs, therefore these medicines are not commonly prescribed.
2) Adequan injections
Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, which is a component of cartilage. It lubricates the joints and helps to repair cartilage. This substance is given as an injection at regular intervals. Like all treatments, this works very well in some cats while others may have less of a response. The downside of this treatment is that the owner has to give the injections. While the needle is small and most cats don’t even react to the injection, some owners do not feel comfortable with needles. You should notice an improvement in your cat’s mobility within a month if this treatment is right for your pet. Side effects are rare.
Acupuncture can be a useful treatment for arthritis in cats. In my personal experience, I find that cats often respond even better than dogs do to treatments, with longer lasting improvements. The majority of cats tolerate acupuncture needles quite well. Some even fall asleep during their treatment. Common feedback that I hear is that cats seem happier, more active, have better appetites and are more affectionate after acupuncture treatments. To read more about acupuncture for pets, read my blog post here.
A cold laser treatment can bring relief to painful joints. By applying a light beam to the sore area, it allows for increased blood flow which can bring down inflammation, reduce pain and help with cell regeneration. There are some cats who do not like acupuncture, but purr and relax with cold laser treatments. The “cold” laser is not actually cold, but produces a warming light. It is called called cold in order to differentiate it from hot lasers that are used in surgical procedures to cut tissue.
One of the more common formulas that I use for arthritis in cats is made by the company Animal Essentials and is called Comfort Plus. This is an herbal formula that is a combination of California Poppy and Skullcap. Cats do not seem to mind the taste (as long as you introduce it gradually) and owners report that their pets are more mobile while taking this herb. There are other herbs available as well, but cats don’t always tolerate the taste well.
Consulting with a homeopath will allow them to choose the correct formula for your cat. However, if you want to try a combination formula first, here are some formulas that I have safely used on cats in the past: Traumeel, Zeel and Joint stress. You can also substitute the Heel products for the American company, T-Relief. You can mix 1-2 drops of the solution with 0.5 cc of water which can be given orally twice a day. You can also mix 1-2 drops with a very small amount of food.
6) Essential oils
Cats can be more sensitive to essential oils than other species. However, there is a blend formulated specifically for cats by veterinarian Melissa Shelton. Some of the oils in this blend are anti-inflammatory and good for achy joints. To read more about this blend, read here.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of these natural arthritis treatments for cats. Feel free to comment below if you have questions!
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