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Veterinary management of feline osteoarthritis

02 November 2021
8 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 9
Figure 2. Acupuncture is often well-tolerated by cats and may help alleviate chronic pain.
Table 1. Behavioural, examination and radiographic changes (which may be seen as a result of osteoarthritis in the feline)


Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition, which causes mobility issues and behavioural changes in affected cats as a result of chronic pain. Despite reports in the literature suggesting a vast prevalence of the condition among the domestic cat population, the condition appears to be underdiagnosed. This is likely due to a combination of subtle clinical signs, lack of owner awareness and poor correlation between radiographical changes and severity of clinical signs. Multimodal management of feline osteoarthritis is likely to be most successful in alleviating pain and improving quality of life. This may include some or all of the following: medical management, rehabilitation therapies, weight loss, environmental adaptations, joint supplements and surgery.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive and multi-factorial degenerative joint disease (Enomoto et al, 2019; Ley et al, 2021). The disease affects multiple structures within the joint leading to destruction of the articular cartilage layer, changes within the subchondral bone, osteophyte formation and inflammation of the synovial membrane (Ley et al, 2021).

The aetiology of feline OA is different to that of canine OA. There is much less evidence to support OA secondary to developmental disease processes such as dysplasia, with one particular study citing this to be just 13% (Godfrey, 2005). Another study indicated that around 25% of cases of feline OA can be attributed to trauma (Clarke et al, 2005). The remaining cases may be idiopathic, primary, immunemediated, bacterial or have a genetic component, such as osteochondrodysplasia affecting the Scottish Fold (Lascelles, 2010). The most common joints affected in the feline patient are the hip, stifle, hock and elbow (Lascelles, 2010).

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