Cats are masters at hiding illness & pain because they are guided by instinct to always pretend like they are perfectly fine in case there is a predator around who will choose the sick/weak looking prey. So, that means we often do not know when our kitty is painful. Arthritis is incredibly common in cats as they age, though they rarely limp or show overt signs of pain. They often simply "slow down" or sleep more or avoid jumping up/down or use intermediate objects (for example, jumping on a chair then table rather than straight from floor to table).
Here are 2 great sites for helping you determine if your kitty may be exhibiting subtle signs of arthritis:
There are several arthritis/pain management options for cats. Arthritis is a condition that we often manage with multi-modal therapy using combinations of non-pharmaceuticals, supplements, and prescription medication.
Non pharmaceutical include:
K Laser therapy: Protocol for chronic arthritis typically 3 times first week, 2 times 2nd week, once 3rd week then monthly thereafter; takes 2-3 minutes each time; nurse appointments; $25 each session. The K Laser is a class IV therapeutic laser that can help manage pain and decrease inflammation. The energy produced by the laser increases circulation which helps to decrease inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
Electromagnetic therapy at home, using the Assisi Loop. See website: Assisi Animal Health :: For Pet Owners The Assisi Loop is around $275 and includes ~150 treatment sessions. It is suggested to start at 1 (15 minute) session 2-4 times a day the first week then 1-2 times a day thereafter. You place the loop on, under, or around the cat's problem area for each session.
Stem cell therapy involves obtaining stem cells from the patient and then returning them either to a specific location or IV throughout the entire body. Side effects from the stem cells are rare, since the stem cells came from the same patient. Stem cell therapy is compatible with most other treatments that may be used concurrently such as medications, supplements, and laser therapy. Please see our website blog post for more information: https://www.catsmeowvets.com/single-post/2019/10/16/Stem-Cell-Therapy
Pharmaceutical options include:
Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) injections - This is a medication given as an injection under the skin at home or in clinic. The medication helps to inhibit enzymes in the joints that break down/damage cartilage. It also helps to increase/thin out the joint fluid to keep the joint better lubricated. There is an initial loading period where this medication is given more frequently to increase the presence of the medication in the body. You start out giving 1-2 times per week, then a long term maintenance dose is used for chronic control. Most cats' maintenance dose is one injection under the skin every 3-4 weeks.
CBD (cannabidiol) is an ingredient derived from the hemp plant. It does not cause a high or dependency but can decrease pain and has the potential for being very useful for chronic pain such as in arthritis. CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) - This class of medication decreases joint inflammation and helps manage pain. They are given every 24 hours as a liquid or pill or can be used as needed for flare-ups/bad days at home. These medications are off-label in the United States (though some are approved in cats for chronic use in other countries). If we use them chronically in cats, we use the doses used in other countries (which is a fraction of the dog dose). NSAIDs cannot be given if your cat is on steroids such as prednisolone (or receiving depomedrol injections). Side effects of this type of medication can include tummy upset and potentially kidney damage (usually only if using high doses). If your cat is not eating/drinking well on this medication or starts having vomiting/abnormal bowel movements then stop right away and call the office. It is also recommended that we check the kidney values prior to starting the medication chronically and then monitor the kidney blood values on a regular basis (every 6-12 months) when a cat is on this medication long term/chronically to make sure the kidneys are tolerating the medication and not having side effects. Overdoses of this medication can be very damaging to the kidneys so always make sure you are giving the accurate amount at home.