Miriam attended an invitation-only masterclass on feline osteoarthritis. Key opinion leaders and experts in the feline veterinary world were brought together to discuss the challenges facing diagnosis of mobility disorders in cats, and what the latest research tells us. Cats are well known for hiding any signs of illness or pain, and osteoarthritis poses some specific challenges for owners and vets to diagnose.
Over 90% of cats (of any age) have evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint in their body. There are known risk factors (such as cats who are neutered at older than 6 months of age, are obese at 6 years of age, cats having outdoor access, or a history of trauma such as a road traffic accident), but detection can still be challenging. Cats are clever, they adapt their lifestyle to accommodate discomfort. The most common adaptations, such as reduced ability or height of jumping, can be easily missed, or accepted as a normal age related change. Many owners find behaviour changes such as grumpiness, withdrawing from family life, toileting accidents or reduced grooming as the first signs. Most cats are reluctant to run, play and walk as they normally would in the veterinary clinic, so looking for lameness or abnormal limb movement in the exam room can pose challenges.
Luckily there has been some exciting research in this area, With the use of a newly developed questionnaire combined with some graphics demonstrating normal vs abnormal movement, an accurate diagnosis can be reached 90% of the time. With additional tests such as the use of our exam room staircase, and utilising videos made by you at home, the future’s looking bright for our arthritic cats. More exciting research is in the pipeline, with activity trackers, thermal pressure plates, and paw withdrawal thresholds all showing potential.
But what about treatment? Cats with degenerative joint disease require what is known as a multimodal approach. This means modifications to their environment, optimal pain relief, dietary management, supplements to protect the cartilage, and physical therapy (such as play and exercise). We have lots of options for all of these, and all of our vets are happy to discuss a treatment plan tailored to your cat if a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is reached. Attending continual professional development events like the masterclass allows our vets to use the latest research and modern treatments to help your pets live the most long and comfortable lives possible.