How Patches got her pizzazz back
“Cats with arthritis are rarely lame, instead they have behavioral and personality changes,” says veterinary surgeon Dr. Jennifer Wardlaw. She says you can judge your success or progress in alleviating a cat’s pain on a physical examination but should also assess the cat’s return to its traditional, pre-debilitation pizzazz.
How to get all that pizzazz back? First watch this video for Wardlaw’s top tips for managing arthritis in cats (quick synopsis: get the owner on board, control the patient’s weight, ensure complete feline accessibility to all the essentials at home, ensure the cat has adequate exercise outlets and use nutraceuticals):
Now, about those nutraceuticals … Wardlaw says nutraceutical options can help with weight management, household changes, physical rehabilitation and diet to ease the pain in arthritic cats.
“Since cats are sometimes hard to give pills to, I like to start with one of the diets with a track record proven to be effective for treating osteoarthritis,” says Wardlaw. “These diets are low in calories to keep the weight off, but they also add omega fatty acids.” Oh those omega-3s! They decrease the joint inflammation—as well as inflammation in several other body systems. “If the cat can be slowly switched onto a controlled caloric intake and you can boost omega-3s, you can see tons of improvement.”
Bonus for dietary intervention: Wardlaw says there are no side effects. “Once you get an improvement in the cat from just the diet, the owner will be even more aware there is a problem and you can start adding other options,” she says. “Similarly to dogs, a multimodal approach to osteoarthritis seems to be the best attack.”
To put the “multi” in multimodal, you can try these interventions:
Fish oils. If the cat just won’t make the change to a diet specific for treating osteoarthritis, you can pour or pump fish oil onto their food. “I love the liquid versions for cats so they do not have the added calories of the gel capsule—and they have a more controlled total dose,” says Wardlaw.
Chondroitin and glucosamine. Wardlaw is a big believer in giving these little add-ons, if they’re high-quality. “We know quality ingredients are bioavailable—they get to the joint and help,” she says. “But they need to be given every day to really make a difference. I typically either advocate for adding it to a small portion of their food to ensure they eat it before the entire meal or for giving them a pill.”
PSGAGs. If chondroitin and glucosamine are a no-go, Wardlaw sometimes uses polysulfated-glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) injections in cats. It should be noted that this is extralabel usage in cats. “I do the traditional (canine) injection series at half the dose and only administer subcutaneously. Then, long-term I continue at half the labeled dose once a month for cats. It is important to note that PSGAGs should not be given in patients with bleeding issues or liver or kidney disease,” she says.