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What is Inflammation of Bone?

Bone inflammation is a condition that occurs when swelling occurs in the bones or bone marrow. The condition can be extremely painful, resulting in limping, inability to use one or more limbs, and vocal or physical manifestations of pain. The condition can affect one or more bones in the cat’s body, although long bones like those found in the legs are more likely to be affected. The condition can occur in any breed, age, or size of cat, but is more common in larger breeds or young cats during times of rapid bone growth. Many issues can cause bone inflammation, including life-threatening conditions. Seek medical attention to determine and treat the underlying cause.

Symptoms of Inflammation of Bone in Cats

The most common symptom of bone inflammation in cats is limping or periodic lameness. When the bone becomes inflamed, it can result in moderate to severe pain, which can cause the cat to favor the affected limb. Symptoms related to inflammation of the bone can occur with other seemingly unrelated symptoms depending on the underlying cause of the inflammation, especially when the condition is caused by an infection. 

Symptoms Include:

  • Limping
  • Reluctance to use one or more limbs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Inability to move one or more limbs
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vocalization associated with pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of muscle mass or muscle wasting
  • Soft tissue swelling
  • Fluid or pus oozing from soft tissues


Several types of bone inflammation can affect cats and kittens. The type of bone inflammation is generally characterized by the underlying cause of the condition. Some common types of inflammation of the bone that affect cats include:

  • Osteomyelitis: Inflammation caused by bacterial or fungal infection
  • Panosteitis: inflammation that affects the long bones often with no discernable cause
  • Osteochondromatosis: inflammation caused by bone spurs or growths
  • Osteoarthritis: inflammation caused by the breakdown of the joints that normally cushion the bones

Causes of Inflammation of Bone in Cats

Various conditions can cause inflammation of the bone. Pain and other related symptoms are directly caused by the swelling within the bone and the pressure it puts on surrounding tissues. In some cases, veterinary staff will be unable to determine the underlying cause of bone inflammation. Some common causes include:

  • Orthopedic diseases
  • Some cancers – particularly those that affect bone marrow
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Fractures
  • Injuries, trauma, or bone bruising
  • Surgery or implants
  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Genetic disorders
  • Rapid bone growth
  • Arthritic conditions

Diagnosis of Inflammation of Bone in Cats

To properly diagnose the underlying cause of bone inflammation, your veterinarian will likely use a combination of diagnostic techniques. Be prepared to discuss your cat’s medical history, observable symptoms, and any recent activity that could be causing pain or swelling. A full physical examination will help identify which bones are affected and if there are any signs of injury that could be causing the inflammation. Blood draws will be analyzed for signs of conditions that can cause bone inflammation. A blood count will determine if white blood cells are within normal range. Additional blood testing for common bacterial or fungal infections may also be necessary. 

Correctly identifying the cause of bone inflammation is essential for proper treatment so your veterinarian may perform extensive diagnostic tests. In addition to blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds, or other imaging techniques are commonly used to identify the exact location of the swelling. Trained veterinary staff will review the images of the bone to look for signs of trauma, fractures, tumors, or abnormal bone growth. A bone marrow biopsy may be necessary if clinical signs indicate cancer or infections are a likely cause. This procedure requires anesthesia and may involve hospitalization after the procedure for observation. 

Treatment of Inflammation of Bone in Cats

The treatment of inflammation of the bone will differ depending on the underlying cause. If no cause is determined, treatment methods will be primarily symptomatic and usually focus on relieving the cat’s pain and reducing the inflammation. If the inflammation is caused by an infection, medications used to treat the infection will be administered in addition to symptomatic treatments. Treatment options include:


Medications in this category are designed to relieve pain. Medications like these are prescribed to keep the cat comfortable and reduce the stress associated with the high level of pain bone inflammation can cause. Pain relievers carry a moderate risk of side effects and require proper dosing for your pet’s size. This treatment will generally continue until the inflammation subsides and the cat’s pain is manageable. 


Drugs designed to reduce inflammation may also be prescribed. This treatment focuses on reducing the primary cause of the pain. They may be used in conjunction with analgesics or alone if the cat’s pain level is tolerable. This treatment also requires proper dosing to reduce the risk of side effects. 


This treatment helps to reduce the body’s response to infections. The medication is designed to suppress immune response and can reduce inflammation. If an infection is the underlying cause of bone inflammation, your veterinarian may forgo this type of treatment so that the cat’s immune system can fight the infection.


In certain cases, like those involving bone spurs and tumors, surgical intervention is necessary to correct or remove the issue. Anesthesia and complications make surgery a more risky treatment. Hospitalization for monitoring is generally required post-surgery. 

Movement Restrictions

Before, during, and after treatment your veterinarian may recommend the cat’s movements be restricted. Reducing use of the affected limb or limbs can help reduce pain and inflammation and help speed the recovery process. 

Recovery of Inflammation of Bone in Cats

Your cat’s prognosis will depend on the underlying cause of the bone inflammation. In many cases, including those where no cause is determined, a full recovery is possible. It may take days or even months before inflammation fully recedes and your pet is able to use the affected limb normally. Continue to monitor your pet carefully for additional, worsening, or recurring symptoms. Follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions during the healing process, including returning for any follow-up visits and continuing the full course of any prescribed medications.