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Cats with joint disorders often can't play, pounce, or even groom themselves comfortably. Although there’s no cure for cat joint disorders, there are options that allow cats to experience less discomfort. For example, supplements with ingredients like chondroitin and glucosamine have helped their cats increase their activity levels.
Here are some causes and signs of cat joint pain pet parents should know to help their cats enjoy a higher quality of life.
Joint disorders in cats are either present at birth or acquired, such as but not limited to injury or infections. Joint pain may be from affected membranes (arthritis) or problems with cartilage and fluid in the joint.
Types of cat joint pain disorders include:
Displacement of the kneecap
Cats may not evidently display signs of joint discomfort as easily as other pets, so pet parents may have to be more astute in their observations. However, a prominent sign in cats with joint pain is their unwillingness to participate in typically favorite activities.
Another sign includes changes in how a cat walks. As a cat's joints deteriorate, they may start to limp or favor a leg. For example, cats may take a while to get out of bed, and their first few steps may seem stiff.
Other signs to watch out for include:
Unwillingness to jump
Sleeping more than usual
Difficulty using litter boxes
A visit to a veterinarian is step one when a cat starts displaying signs of joint pain. The vet may order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, to determine if the joint disorder is osteoarthritis. Another test option is an ultrasound scan to detect cysts or problems with tendons and ligaments.
After confirming the cause of joint pain, a vet may suggest joint medicine as part of a cat’s treatment. Many joint health supplements for cats contain helpful ingredients to reduce joint pain and swelling. However, it’s worth noting that supplements should never replace feeding a quality diet.
Pet parents may have questions or concerns about what cat joint health supplements contain and why they work. Here’s a breakdown of the common ingredients found in joint medicine for cats.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound in cartilage. Glucosamine supplements are mild anti-inflammatories that help with the chronic pain of osteoarthritis in cats to repair joint cartilage, thereby reducing cartilage breakdown and inflammation.
Chondroitin sulfate is another compound in cartilage that promotes joint tissue maintenance, joint hydration, and shock absorption. Supplements with glucosamine often contain chondroitin because of their joint inflammation reduction and cartilage repair and protection.
Additionally, Chondroitin may also protect a cat's intestinal tract from ulcers, which sometimes occur as a side effect of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Microlactin is a dried milk protein derived from cows that have been immunized against specific diseases. These unique proteins temporarily reduce joint pain and stiffness, so cats enjoy improved mobility. The use of Microlactin has not proved evidence of gastrointestinal problems the way other anti-inflammatories can.
The factors in Microlactin appear to block “bad cytokines,” which are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
MSM is another naturally occurring compound in animals and some plants, but it can also be synthesized in a lab. MSM supplements have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which help treat osteoarthritis. These supplements may also contain glucosamine and show effectiveness in joint repair and maintenance as well as cartilage and tissue protection.
Green-lipped mussels and other shellfish supplements are traditional supports for joint health maintenance. These mussels retain many beneficial anti-inflammatory properties and nutrients from the ocean, such as omega-3 fatty acids, glycosaminoglycans, zinc, and glutamine — all of which collaboratively benefit to support cats with mobility.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish, like salmon, and fish oil supplements, which reduce joint inflammation. Pet parents can proactively give their cats these supplements before signs of joint pain start, as omega-3 fatty acids can decrease or prevent rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Pet parents should also consider the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in their cats’ food based on their weight.
When pet parents start their cats on joint health supplements as part of a high-quality diet, they may see their cats’ quality of life improve or return to their usual activities and personalities — ultimately, that’s what any pet parent wants for their cat.
Fuzzy recommends consulting with a vet before starting a supplement program for cats. The Fuzzy veterinary support team can help pet parents 24/7 with questions about their cats’ health.