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Dear Christopher Cat

Our cat has severe osteoarthritis in one hip, and our veterinarian recommended surgery to remove the ball component of his ball-and-socket hip joint. Our cat won’t take pills, so I’m afraid he’ll be in agony after the surgery. Should we still consider it?

Christopher Responds

The surgical procedure you describe, called a femoral head ostectomy (FHO), can substantially improve your cat’s quality of life by relieving arthritic pain.

During the procedure, the head of the femur, i.e., the top part of the thigh bone, is removed (“ostectomy” means bone removal), so it no longer scrapes against the hip socket.

Your veterinarian will prescribe injectable pain therapy throughout your cat’s hospitalization and send home additional pain medication. Let your vet know that your cat refuses to take pills so other formulations -– perhaps more than one -– can be prescribed.

An example of a non-pill orthopedic pain regimen combines Metacam, a tasty liquid you can mix with a small amount of canned cat food, and the fentanyl transdermal patch, applied to the skin by your veterinarian and removed after several days.

Metacam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and fentanyl, a narcotic, work differently. Given together, they relieve pain multiple ways, without triggering the side effects that might occur if a large dose of either drug were given alone.

If I were your cat, I would welcome the FHO surgery, because it would relieve my hip pain for the remainder of my life. And I’d be grateful to have a veterinarian who would take into account my pill-averse personality when deciding on my post-op pain medications.



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