My cat
Advices from our vets

What is osteoarthritis?

In healthy joints, there is a perfecte balance between the synthesis and degradation of cartilage, and of the bone located under the cartilage (subchondral bone) (see joints). When this balance is disturbed an irreversible process of weakening of the structures of the joint begins. This is what is called osteoarthritis. This translates to a stiffness, pain and thus a weakened will to move around, as well as a loss of muscle mass.

There are several factors that that favor the development this condition:

  • growth disorders when the cat was young,
  • a trauma that affects the joint (such as a fracture),
  • repeated movement and shock,
  • systemic  inflammatory diseases, such as being overweight or obese,
  • infectious diseases,
  • the natural ageing of the joint.

It is not always easy to know if your cat has osteoarthritis. Indeed, signs are very hard to detect in cats as they seldom limp (4 to 10% of cats limp). These joint paints are expressed by hesitations to jump or lower jumps than before, by difficulties in climbing or coming down the stairs; by a decrease of activity, which means your cat sleeps more, eats less, plays or hunts less,… As it loses in flexibility, it may also dedicate less time to grooming than before, that it ignores certain zones or that it sharpens less its claws. Finally, joint pains can be detected through a change of behaviour: it may refuse contact with you or with other cats, may become aggressive when you stroke the bottom of the back for instance, or it may be less active. As time goes, you will probably observe that your cat is losing muscle. Talk about these changes with your veterinarian, who will examine your cat and take an X-ray.

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