Helping cats with osteoporosis to live their best life

Experts provide advice on identifying and managing OA in cats and discuss the latest treatments for this painful condition

As veterinary medicine improves and cats live longer, they suffer more complications associated with aging, including osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive degenerative joint disease. The average lifespan of cats with arthritis is 10.2 years,1 It found that nearly 90% of those over the age of 12 had arthritis.2

In an interview with dvm360®Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DABVP, medical director at Chico Cat Hospital in Chico, California, provides veterinarians and advice for clients to detect and manage disease in cats.

Hidden Signs of Organic Farming for Cats

According to Collieran, osteoarthritis can be more difficult to recognize in cats than in dogs. She says cats are secretive because hiding their emotions is for their own good. As ‘Solo Hunters, they don’t have [a] Great repertoire of emotional marks on their faces…but they show what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.”

One should look for a ‘lifestyle cat [has] changed,” she explained; for example, “a cat that used to sleep with its owner… [but] He didn’t sleep with the owner anymore,” who used to climb to the highest point on a cat tree…[but] Don’t do that anymore,” or even a cat who’s “sleeping more than usual.”

At the Fetch dvm360® conference in April 2022, Colleran mentioned other signs of OA: avoidance of other family members, increased anger, decreased grooming, anxiety, changes in exclusion behavior, sniffing, and unwillingness to jump.3

Parents can also use the Cat Musculoskeletal Pain Index, which is a validated pain score, to closely examine their pets. The index asks questions about specific indicators of OA that reveal the severity of a cat’s pain.

physical examination

Visual assessment of a cat’s gait is important, but the environment must
It is carefully controlled. According to Colleran, a calm, low-stress atmosphere is essential, and the cat should be given time to acclimatize to the room. The vet should then gently touch the joints, although cats who do not have joint pain will also be averse to this.

Because arthritis is complex and usually affects different joints, it can be difficult to regulate. The best way to accomplish staging is to examine the overall effect on the cat. Based on activity and mobility, the phases of OA are as follows.

  • Stage 1: Early signs of inactivity
  • Stage 2: Intermittent signs of inactivity
  • Stage 3: A marked decrease in activity and some decrease in movement
  • Stage 4: Loss of movement with severe pain3

Multimodal approaches to chronic cat pain

When it comes to treating disease, it is important to tell clients that it cannot be cured, it has only been managed to improve mobility and quality of life. Colleran noted that the multimodal approach is most beneficial, as it combines traditional medicines with adjuvant therapies and environmental modification.

On the pharmacological side, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used. “There are also some really helpful adjunct treatments, like laser therapy [and] Acupuncture said. She added, “Assisi Lube is my favorite because cats don’t mind it at all, and then there are…supplements like omega-3 fatty acids.”

Environmental modification includes making the cat’s space more comfortable so that she can move around more easily and providing her with a warm bed to soothe her joints.

“Environmental modification means we change the environment to accommodate…something that’s going on with the cat. For example… a lot of my clients will build ramps or ramps for cats to get to really high places where you like to sit and watch the world go by or watch the birds outside.”

What’s new in the treatment of cat pain?

In the 2022 convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association,4 Alonso Guedes, DVM, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about “the newest baby[s] On the block”: a monoclonal antibody to neuronal growth factor.

Guedes explained that neuronal growth factor (NGF) is synthesized and activated on many cell types: different cells are secreted and affected by it. NGF signaling is upregulated during chronic inflammation associated with OA, resulting in central and peripheral sensitivity and hyperalgesia. In patients with osteoarthritis, NGF secretion is increased, resulting in sensitization of the periphery and the central tip of neurons in the spinal cord.

“NGF will also activate the immune cells, and these cells will then scrape their mediators, [which]…and then the inflammation amplifies…so it seems like a good idea…[to use] nerve growth factor in the client’s body, you bind to the nerve growth factors there, neutralize them, and then the nervous system is able to go back to normal [state]. that it [a] Nice concept,” Guedes added.


  1. Bennett D, Zinal Arefin SM, Johnston B. Cat Osteoarthritis: 1. How common is it and how easy is it to recognize? J. Felin Med Surg. 2012; 14 (1): 65-75. doi: 10.1177/1098612X11432828
  2. Yeowell G, Burns D, Fatoye F, Gebrye T, Wright A, Mwacalimba K, et al. Health-related quality of life indicators in cats with degenerative joint disease: a systematic review and suggestion of a conceptual framework. In front of veterinary sciences. 2021; 8:582148. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.582148
  3. Colleran E. Cats do not limp: chronic pain in the elderly. Presented at: Fetch dvm360® Conference; April 22-24, 2022; Charlotte, Nick.
  4. Guedes A. New developments in the management of chronic pain in cats. Filed At: American Veterinary Medical Association Convention; July 29 – August 2, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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