Did you know that 90% of all cats over the age of 12 have radiographic signs of arthritis? I didn’t either. How about this one? Nearly 40% of all cats have clinical signs of arthritis. This is nearly double what is seen in our dog population. Yet, veterinarians diagnose arthritis in cats much less frequently. And cat parents do not often recognize or report signs of arthritis to their veterinarian. ¹
As a veterinarian and cat parent, I can say this was both a surprise and disappointment to learn. I could only think of all the cats out there living in chronic pain. Because our patients cannot talk, I think about this like a young child not being able to say, “mommy it hurts”.
With the development and release of the first ever FDA-approved treatment to control osteoarthritis pain in cats (Solensia™) by Zoetis, the veterinary community has learned much more about osteoarthritis in our feline patients. The data isn’t all that new (as early as 2012), but the science is. Zoetis brought to us Solensia in the latter part of 2022. And with it, eye-opening statistics, tools for recognizing and diagnosing arthritis is cats, and a novel treatment involving a once-monthly injection of antibodies that reduce pain signals and work just like a cat’s natural ones. I am relieved to say, this has prompted us to know better and do better as we serve our cat patients.
The other part to this equation is you, the cat parents out there. We need to help you understand and know that your cat could be affected by arthritis or any type of pain for that matter, and what signs to look for. Further, we must invite you to pick up the phone or hop on over to our chat feature on our app and reach out to us!
We’ve been rather busy this month posting a lot of information regarding pain in cats. What to look for. What we can do to help. Our website is also full of information & tools. If your cat is 7 years of age or older and you’ve scheduled an exam with us, we are asking for you to complete a pain and osteoarthritis checklist. We do this in 3 ways: we send a link to you in our pre-visit form, direct you to the checklist link on our website, and if all else fails, ask you to complete the checklist once you’ve arrived for your appointment. The best of all of these involves you observing and watching your cat in the home environment as your cat goes about some of its normal activities such as jumping up and down, climbing stairs, chasing objects, and running. Additionally, we want to know about your cat’s energy level, habits, and if they are hiding more or slowing down (all signs of pain).
Why are observations in the home environment so helpful? Because cats are much different once they arrive to our office and they are masters of hiding pain. So, we must rely on you to help us diagnose osteoarthritis pain. (Note: not all pain is chronic and not all chronic pain is caused by osteoarthritis but just learning what is normal and what is not will help us determine the underlying cause and how to treat).
I recently checked in with Drs. Tom, Jess, and Carolyn about their experiences treating chronic pain in cats. They said one of their biggest challenges as they work to increase awareness and diagnose pain in their feline patients is the gap between what cat owners think of as pain and what we veterinarians think of as pain. We see this nearly every day at Animal Clinic of Chardon and are working hard to change this. We truly are committed to helping more cats out there (we’ve devoted a whole year to doing so!) and we truly want to be a partner, along with you, in your cat’s care. We invite you to continue to check out our posts and deals (this month we are offering a special incentive for the first dose of Solensia™) throughout 2023 ACOC’s Year of the Cat.
Some helpful cat parent resources
Cat Pain & Osteoarthritis Checklist You can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. (We would also love for you to capture a short video or two and bring it in with you to their exam).
What is Your Cat’s Normal vs. Not Normal
Everyday Signs of Pain in a Cat
The Impact of Chronic Pain on Quality of Life