Feline arthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints and generally
occurs in later life. Veterinary experts are reporting more arthritic
cases than ever before, and it is thought that a contributory factor may
be in the manufacture of highly processed commercial cat food.
Interestingly, owners who prepare their cats' meals at home and serve raw, natural food
have reported a reduction in the incidence of degenerative arthritis in
their cats. It would appear that diet does have a huge part to play in
the development of this condition.
Older cats who are overweight are more likely to develop
arthritis simply because there is more pressure put on their joints by
their extra poundage. Cartilage and bone will wear away quicker in an
animal that has stressed joints than one who is fed a good healthy lean
diet and who takes regular exercise.
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Where bones form a joint, the articulating layers, i.e. the bone surfaces within the joint, are covered in cartilage and sometimes encased within a capsule containing joint fluid. When there is excess strain the supporting structures around the joint will weaken and the cartilage will wear away to expose the bone. This creates not only pain but a restriction in movement, and your cat will find great difficulty in moving around. He will move around stiffly, and won't be as confident in jumping up to higher areas. He will have difficulty in climbing stairs and may start taking them one at a time. He may show signs of depression by hiding away or appearing listless, or even bad tempered and tetchy. He may not be able to tolerate being stroked much in painful areas and he may cry out if you touch an inflamed joint.
Diagnosis of arthritis in cats is based on observation and blood tests, and X ray will show joint degeneration as areas of worn, irregular bone and possible distortion of the joint itself if the bone is irregular and forcing the cat to hold himself in an awkward position to compensate for the pain or the discomfort.
Treatment consists of giving him medication to ease the pain, aid the regeneration process of cartilage and bone, and build up the fluid within capsular joints to provide a cushion for the joint itself. The usual combination is of glucosamine and chondroitin which are used for just the same purpose in human beings, and your vet will be able to prescribe a product that will be specific to felines. Recovery is remarkably quick, and although he may not recover 100% mobility his quality of life will be very much improved.