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Osteoarthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats

As many cat owners know, it is difficult to recognize the warning signs of Osteoarthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in cats, until the condition has progressed and the signs have become evident.  The terms Osteoarthritis and DJD are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction between the two.  DJD is used as a general term to describe any degenerative change, whereas Osteoarthritis relates more specifically to the deterioration of articular cartilage, inflammation, bone remodeling, and soft tissue changes.  Pet owners and veterinarians would like to diagnose the cat as early as possible, so the cat will not experience negative effects of pain and suffering. 

Osteoarthritis and DJD appear more frequently in cats than previously thought, especially in senior cats.  Cats are extremely talented at hiding any signs of arthritis, and therefore the condition can be missed by you and your vet.  It is good advice to have radiographic testing performed before your cat reaches his/her senior years.  A recent study of 100 cats (of an average of 12 years of age) showed that 90% of them showed radiographic proof of DJD.  When their medical charts were viewed by the researchers, only 4 of the cats had the condition documented in their chart.  This is not to say that veterinarians aren’t observing the presence of the diseases, but more likely that the signs can be missed by performing only a hands-on evaluation.  Further testing needs to be done, where the results can be viewed and assessed from x-rays and other radiographic machines. 

Cats, unlike dogs and even their human counterparts, can cope with severe orthopedic pain.  Their small stature and good agility enables them to deal with pain without showing physical signs.  If they do begin to show signs, it may include a resistance to jump up on places they once loved, missing the litter box, an inability to clean themselves properly, withdrawing and hiding, changes in sleeping patterns, and a resistance to touch.  Your vet will explain management techniques such as exercise, diet, and supplements.  You may want to speak to them about how a liquid Glucosamine supplement can assist in your cat’s joint health.

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