Some cats respond to glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate products, though only anecdotal evidence regarding cats' response
is available.11 One such product is specifically formulated for cats (Cosequin for Cats—Nutramax Laboratories).
Acupuncture can be considered, if available. Physical therapy techniques may help improve mobility and strength in an arthritic
limb, though cats may not be cooperative.
NSAIDs can be used to treat chronic pain in cats, but it is imperative to balance a cat's need with the potential for drug-induced
liver and kidney damage. Thus, it is prudent to try other approaches before resorting to pharmacologic intervention. An excellent
article on managing pain in cats was recently published.12 If you think an NSAID is needed, perform a complete blood count and serum chemistry profile to obtain baseline values. Meloxicam
(Metacam—Boehringer Ingelheim) has the advantage of ease of dosing in animals less than 11 lb (5 kg) (0.1 mg/kg orally on
the first day, 0.05 mg/kg for the next two to five days, and then 0.025 mg/kg per day or every other day); the oral formulation
is not labeled for use in cats.
Most of what we know about managing pain in cats relates to acute pain and short-term drug administration. Chronic arthritic
pain is quite different. Studies in this area are difficult to conduct because of the nature of the subject. Basic research
principles require that we create an effective model and measure the effects of the disease process so that we can then measure
a response, for example, to a particular analgesic. Clinical research faces similar challenges. Dr. Lascelles and others at
North Carolina State University are currently working to develop assessment methods, including behavior and activity questionnaires,
activity monitors, and force pad assessment of limb loading, so that therapies can be assessed objectively.
Once problems have been identified and treated, have the owner complete a patient-specific activity questionnaire to assess
response to treatment. For example, for my own cat, a good response to treatment would be a return to being able to get onto
the table in one jump.
There are many unknowns regarding osteoarthritis in cats. We are getting better at detecting joint disease in cats but have
little understanding of the primary causes. We are still working on ways to recognize and measure the effects of joint disease
in cats. We have begun to explore nonpharmacologic methods for managing chronic pain but find it difficult to accurately judge
response in this largely uncooperative patient group. We are learning more about the pharmacology of NSAIDs in cats, but cats'
individual metabolisms may complicate NSAIDs' application clinically. Osteoarthritis probably has a larger effect on the cat
population than we realize, so it is important for us to continue our efforts to recognize their plight and to find ways to
make their lives more comfortable.
Simon Roe, BVSc, PhD, DACVS
Department of Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27606
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2. Godfrey DR. Osteoarthritis in cats: a retrospective radiological study. J Small Anim Pract 2005;46:425-429.
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6. Breitschwerdt E. Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh,
NC: Personal communication, 2004.
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