is a loyal reader who wrote in with a question
concerning her cat, Mathilda. The 12-year-old indoor cat
has slowed down quite a bit in the past year or so. She
seems to be eating and drinking well, but she sleeps
more than she used to and has trouble jumping onto
furniture, something she used to do with minimal effort.
Phyllis thinks itís probably due to arthritis and
advancing age. She has read about treatment for
arthritis in dogs but wonders what she can use to treat
cats do develop arthritis. Like any creature with a
boney skeleton and joints, they can develop inflammation
in those joints, termed arthritis. This is a huge field
of research in human medicine and somewhat true in the
veterinary world as well, especially with dogs. However,
arthritis in cats has been a bit more difficult to
class of medications most commonly used to treat
arthritis in dogs are called NSAIDs or nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs. There are several available
through your veterinarian and they work well in most
instances. These medications in cats, however, can cause
side effects that are quite serious and generally
precludes their use, especially long term.
are making an assumption that Mathilda is afflicted with
arthritis and that this is whatís responsible for her
"slowing down." It is very common for
caretakers to attribute changes in their companionsí
behaviors and habits to old age ó be it slowing down,
sleeping more, decreasing exercise or any number of
things. I try to never make that assumption.
of my favorite responses to the "old age"
diagnosis is "old age is not a disease."
Certainly there are changes in the body that do occur as
a result of the aging process. That said, none of these
changes are diseases. Certain diseases are more common
as our companions age but, again, aging by itself does
not mean disease.
needs a visit to her veterinarian for a physical
examination to determine what might be causing her
decreased activity and jumping ability. At her age, she
should have radiographs done to check her chest and
abdomen, as well as her skeleton and joints. An
electrocardiogram (ECG) will help determine how her
heart is working and a blood sample will check several
parameters including liver enzymes, kidney function,
blood electrolytes, blood sugar level, a complete blood
count and others. There may be other tests necessary
depending on her physical exam and results of initial
diagnostics. It is very important to make sure there is
nothing else causing Mathildaís symptoms before we
chalk it up to arthritis.
are special tests that can be performed to determine the
presence of arthritis, however they are not usually
necessary. Often, by the time a companion begins to show
significant lameness from arthritis, radiographs taken
of the affected area will show secondary changes in the
bone. Armed with this visual information, we can give a
proper diagnosis of arthritis and outline a treatment.
we touched on, cats donít usually tolerate the
standard NSAID medications used to alleviate arthritis
pain in dogs. They do, however, do well with some of the
supplements used in dogs. Products containing
glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have shown efficacy
in some cats with arthritis and are available
specifically formulated for cats from your veterinarian.
If Mathilda indeed is suffering from arthritis pain,
this type of treatment might just do the trick. We can
also use cortisone therapy in cats. Cortisone is a
powerful anti-inflammatory medication and cats generally
tolerate it very well.
with a visit to her veterinarian and a determination of
what might be slowing Mathlida down, she can be helped
to improve her activity and overall quality of life.