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C2003-27

Dear Christopher Cat

Dexter, our ancient cat, no longer jumps onto the bed.  He barely can crawl onto the couch, and he has trouble climbing the steps.

Do cats develop arthritis?  How can we help him?

Christopher Responds

Yes, older cats, like humans and dogs, may develop arthritis, often called degenerative joint disease by veterinarians.

Treatment options are many – but not perfect.  If Dexter is overweight, help him lose the excess to ease the burden on his joints and back.

Start him on a glucosamine-chondroitin product like Cosequin for Cats, available without a prescription.  It will protect his joint cartilage, nourish joint fluid and provide a mild anti-inflammatory effect.

Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are controversial because of their longer duration of action and higher risk of side effects in cats than dogs.
The veterinary drug companies are developing NSAIDs that may be safer for cats, but until they merit Food and Drug Administration approval, talk with your veterinarian about the advisability of giving Dexter an NSAID approved for dogs.

Steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisolone, may provide some help, but they generally are not prescribed for prolonged periods because of the high risk of side effects, including diabetes.

Other options are acupuncture and pain relievers that have no anti-inflammatory effect.

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, kills cats, so don’t give Dexter any pain reliever that contains acetaminophen.

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