A joint is a flexible connection between two bones. Its purpose is to allow movement. Some joints are relatively simple and permit only a limited range of movement. Others, such as the hip or the jaw, are quite complex and are designed to enable the two bones to move in several directions.
"Arthritis" means inflammation within the joint. this condition usually results in pain and a degree of lameness. Arthritis is not particularly common in cats, especially when compared with its incidence in humans. For all its apparent familiarity to us, the condition is often poorly understood by cat owners. One particularly common misconception is that Arthritis and Rheumatism are the same thing (Rheumatism is a specific type of Arthritis). An understanding of what Arthritis is, how it develops, and what you can do about it will help you cope with an Arthritic cat.
The severity of the signs varies with the amount of damage to the joint and rate at which damage occurs. Signs should include:
- Hot, swollen joint.
- Pain - Cat might limp or even refuse to bear weight on the joint.
- Stiffness, lameness. The cat might be slow or reluctant to stand up after rest.
- A general loss or reduction of normal free function.
The treatment depends to some extent on the cause of the Arthritis. The aim is to minimise further damage and to relieve the pain and inflammation.
When bacterial infection is the cause Antibiotics are used, but it is difficult to get Antibiotics into the joint and therefore to the site of infection. This is because everything that gets into the joint is filtered, purified and modified first. There is no blood within the joint. Instead, there is joint fluid, which is responsible for lubrication and nutrition, because the joint is protected from Antibiotics, infections within a joint can flourish. Although there are ways of overcoming this problem, it is nevertheless difficult to eliminate an infection without surgical intervention, once it has invaded a joint.
The treatment of Arthritis involves controlling the inflammation thus reducing the pain, plus stabilizing the joint if possible. This might involve repair of loose or broken ligaments. Reduction of any excess weight will also help.
There is a range of drugs that can be used. Aspirin is quite effective, but cats have great difficulty in excreting it. It is better and wiser to leave the choice and dose rates of drugs to your Veterinary Surgeon.
If your cat is overweight then it should be put on a pure diet to lose weight. Extra calcium or bonemeal should be added to food, and oils such as vitamin E daily and a little cod liver oil twice a week along with vitamin C may be beneficial. REMEMBER: It is important never to overdose cod liver oil, a quarter of a teaspoon is sufficient. Nutritionally vitamin C, A, D and E supplements are the most beneficial and collagen supplements could be useful.
Glucosamine (An animo sugar, that is a constituent of Heparin and other Polysaccharides) and Chondriton are substances which supposedly help regenerate cartilage.
Homoeopathically: Rhus Tox is the most commonly used remedy and Bryonia and Pulsatilla may also help. For older cats try Arnica.
Herbally: Nettles can be very effective; Alfalfa and Garlic may help.