What are Joint Disorders?
Such conditions include kneecap displacement, hip dysplasia, and all types of arthritis. Types of arthritis may include, but are not limited to, osteoarthritis, septic arthritis, immune-mediated arthritis, and cancerous arthritis.
Many different types of conditions can affect a cat’s joints. Some of these can be congenital, or present at birth, while others are primarily caused by joint trauma, infection, and, in some cases, cancer. These conditions can affect any part of the joint, from the membranes to the cartilage and tendons in the joint.
Symptoms of Joint Disorders in Cats
The symptoms of joint disorders in cats will vary depending on the type of disorder the cat is suffering from. Following is a list of some general symptoms of joint disorders:
- Stiffness when walking
- Swollen joints
- Lethargy and weakness
- Reluctance to jump
- Excessive grooming of the joints
- Lameness or limping
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Visible pain and discomfort
- Angry temperament
- General reduced activity and mobility
Causes of Joint Disorders in Cats
Joint disorders have a wide range of causes. Some of them may be present at birth, while others are caused by joint trauma, bacterial infection, and cancer. Immune-mediated arthritis, similar to rheumatoid arthritis in people, is caused by the cat’s own immune system. Obesity may also play a role in causing certain joint disorders.
An uncommon cause of joint disorders in cats, particularly arthritis, is the presence of a tumor on the pituitary gland that emits excess amounts of the growth hormone. Cats with this rare condition typically suffer from feline diabetes.
Diagnosis of Joint Disorders in Cats
Cats that are seven years or older are usually checked for joint disorders during routine veterinary examinations, as these diseases can be a normal part of aging for many animals. Diagnostic techniques may vary depending on the issues affecting your cat. Be sure to inform your vet of the duration and extent of your cat’s symptoms.
Thorough physical examinations and X-rays are the most common diagnostic methods for joint disorders. Bone and joint trauma, as well as fluid present in the joints, will show up on an X-ray and help the vet make a definitive diagnosis. Biopsies may also be used to detect cancerous forms of arthritis.
Treatment of Joint Disorders in Cats
Your vet will determine the best course of treatment based on your cat’s individual needs. Treatment of joint disorders will depend on the type of joint disorder:
- Kneecap Displacement: Most commonly treated by surgery.
- Hip Dysplasia: No definitive treatment apart from lifestyle and diet changes.
- Osteoarthritis: Depends on the severity and location. Pain management and anti-inflammatory drugs may be effective, while some forms may require surgery, including joint fusion or amputation.
- Septic Arthritis: Treated with antibiotics. For more severe cases, flushing of the joints and surgery may be required to remove dead tissue.
- Immune-Mediated Arthritis: Anti-inflammatory and chemotherapy drugs.
- Cancerous Arthritis: Amputation of the limb is the most effective treatment to prevent the cancer from spreading to the lungs.
- Ligament Tears: Depend on whether or not the cat is suffering from an underlying cause or an injury. Drugs, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes can be incredibly effective. Surgery may be required in the event that the tear is caused by a degenerative disease.
- Ligament Breakdown: Less severe cases may be treated with the application of a cast or splint. Joint fusion surgery is usually the primary course of treatment.
- Hip Dislocation: The vet may “pop” the joint back into place without the use of surgery. However, surgery may be required if the vet is unable to put the joint back in place using manual methods.
Recovery of Joint Disorders in Cats
Prognosis will depend on the type and severity of the disorder and treatment method. For most joint disorders, the prognosis usually ranges from good to excellent following treatment.
For mild conditions treated with anti-inflammatory or pain management medications, recovery is fairly straightforward. Weight management and physical therapy may be effective in reducing your cat’s pain and discomfort. Your vet may recommend changes to your cat’s diet or certain weight management supplements in order to manage symptoms.
For more severe conditions that require surgery or physical manipulation of the joint, you’ll want to ensure that your cat gets plenty of rest during the recovery period. Don’t allow your cat to irritate the surgery site. If your cat required limb amputation, your vet will advise you on how to help your cat adjust. The recovery time for amputation typically ranges from two weeks to a month or more, depending on the level of pain your cat is experiencing.
Always follow your vet’s directions carefully following diagnosis and treatment no matter how mild or serious the condition. Ensure your cat has a warm and comfortable place to rest. This is incredibly important for cats suffering from joint disorders.