Chronic Pain in Cats
Cats are masters at hiding their pain, especially chronic pain. Cats are classified as predators, but they are also prey to other carnivores. Evolutionarily-speaking cats would be vulnerable to predation if they allowed weakness to show. This is one of the reasons why you rarely see cats limping, and yet 90% of cats over 12 years of age have some form of osteoarthritis.
What are the most common sources of pain?
1. Osteoarthritis is number one.
2. Any of the diseases that end in “itis.” For example, pancreatitis, gastritis, etc.
What are some of the signs of pain?
1. Changes in behavior
Irritability- growling, scratching, biting, crying, or distress when picked up or touched.
Urinating or defecating outside the litter box
Grooming less or excessively grooming a particular site
2. Changes in activity
Sleeping more/sleeping in a hunched position
Reluctant to do stairs/bunny hops with rear legs
3. Changes in appearance
Ears out to the side
Gait-stiffer, slower, abnormal
What can be done to alleviate pain?
1. Diets- Joint diets, specific organ system diets
2. Supplements- Omega 3 Fatty Acids; Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan; neutraceuticals
3. Environmental modifications
Ramps/step-ups; safety zones; low-lipped litter boxes; easily accessed food, water, and litter boxes.
4. Alternative Methods
Acupuncture; Physical therapy; Massage; Laser; Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy
-Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories: Meloxicam, Robenacoxib
-less used: Amitriptyline, Amantadine, Tramadol
-potentially pending: nerve growth factor or monoclonal antibodies
Here are a couple of websites to help you identify and care for cats in pain:
*Always contact your veterinarian before instituting any treatments for your cats.*