The most common form of arthritis in felines is Osteoarthritis, which is also called degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Even so, it is less common in cats than it is in dogs and generates milder symptoms. In a feline with degenerative joint disease, the cartilage casing the articulating surface of a joint wears out and the underlying bone consequently develops a roughened surface that damages the joint.
Osteoarthritis takes place in joints that have been dislocated, severely stressed, or fractured. Proper early care of joint injuries may lessen the severity of any ensuing lameness.
While osteoarthritis may start during the first half of life, symptoms usually do not appear until much later. The signs are mostly stiffness and lameness. Lameness is typically worse when the cat wakes up but gets better as the day progresses. Felines may show swelling around muscle atrophy on legs and affected joints with arthritic conditions. There may be an unwillingness to leap and jump. They often display irritability and behavioral changes linked to increasing disability. Cold and damp environments increase pain and stiffness.
The identification of osteoarthritis is made by joint X-rays that demonstrate bone spurs at points where the ligaments and the joint capsule fasten to the bone. There may be unstable degrees of joint space narrowing and increased density of bone around the joint.
There are several new medications that can be used to successfully treat pain and inflammation in cats. They should only be used under the guidance of your veterinarian, however. Regrettably, many of the medications created to treat arthritis in dogs are not safe for cats and can even be toxic. The same holds true of medicines developed for humans. Tylenol in particular must never ever be used. Luckily, pain or severe lameness in cats is uncommon and rarely produces significant disability.