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Using Diet to Treat Arthritis in Cats

Using Diet to Treat Arthritis in Cats

Arthritis is a common condition that can cause cats to experience significant joint pain. While medications and physical therapy are frequently recommended, diet is one approach that's often overlooked. Today, our Brentwood vets will discuss how certain types of cat food can help you manage your kitty's arthritis. 

Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis in Cats 

Let's clear up any confusion you might have about the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis in cats. While arthritis is a general term that refers to the inflammation of joints, osteoarthritis specifically involves the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. 

In this post, we will be discussing diet and treatment for arthritis in cats, not treatment for osteoarthritis in cats. 

Your Cat & Arthritis 

Similar to humans, cats can also suffer pain due to arthritis. Some studies have revealed that the incidence of arthritis increases as cats age. In fact, X-rays have shown that about 90% of cats over the age of 12 have arthritis in one or more joints. 

With cats living longer now than they have historically, it's becoming increasingly likely that every cat owner will eventually have to deal with this issue. 

However, there is some cause for hope. Nutritional science has taught us that pet owners can greatly improve their arthritic cats' quality of life by choosing an appropriate diet that fulfills their cat's specific needs. 

How can diet help with my cat's arthritis? 

Diet can play a critical part in helping you to manage your cat's arthritis, as the food you feed your cat can help control their weight and arthritis symptoms. Recent research as given us some insights into how significantly fat accumulation can impact the health of overweight and obese cats with arthritis. This fat not only puts extra stress on their joints, it also releases inflammatory hormones, intensifying inflammation and causing additional pain. 

Consequently, weight and obesity are stronger factors in how arthritis develops and progress in cats than previously believed. However, ensuring your cat maintains a healthy body weight is not your only concern. Another goal is to help them burn fat while maintaining or increasing muscle mass. 

Working with your veterinarian should help you choose a good diet for your cat and understand how much to feed them on a daily basis. 

Additionally, some dietary supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine, have anti-inflammatory properties and promote lubrication of joints, further aiding in management of arthritis symptoms in cats. Your vet should be able to recommend supplements based on your cat's specific needs. 

After successfully reducing your cat's weight, you can expect to see their condition improve significantly. With less weight to support, there won't be as much stress on their joints. This will support your cat's mobility and hopefully reduce any pain. Additionally, you may notice your cat is healthier and more energetic in general, since maintaining a healthy weight has numerous benefits for their overall well-being. 

What about exercise?

It's always a good idea to combine a healthful diet with regular exercise to help manage your cat's weight. However, you don't want to inadvertently put excessive strain on your cat's joints with vigorous exercise. Low-impact exercises such as controlled walking or swimming are ideal for managing arthritis in cats and can be beneficial for maintaining their weight.

Incorporating interactive toys that encourage movement, such as puzzle feeders or laser pointers, can also help while minimizing stress on joints. 

How to Tell If Your Cat is Overweight

To determine whether your kitty is overweight, try the tips below.

Look for Your Cat's Waistline

Look down from above at your cat while they are standing. Look for a small indentation just above your cat's hips, where their waist should be (this can be a bit tricky with long-haired cats). If you can't see their waist or if their sides are bulging, your cat is most likely carrying extra weight.

Feel for Your Cat's Ribs

When your cat is at a healthy weight, you should be able to slightly feel their ribs by gently running your hand along their chest. If you can't feel your cat's ribs, your cat may be overweight.

Struggling to Jump

Cats are built to be quick runners and jumpers. If your cat has to try several times before jumping up onto their favorite piece of furniture, or if your cat gives up entirely, their weight could be the issue.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat or kitten due for a wellness exam? Contact our Brentwood vets to book an appointment.

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