Many people experience arthritis as they age. Pets may as well. My husband and I recently learned our 11-year-old cat Bailey has severe arthritis in her hips and spine. We were shocked. She showed no signs of distress. We had taken her to the vet concerned about possible diabetes due to weight gain and other issues. Her blood work came back normal so the vet did X-rays, which revealed something we weren’t expecting: osteoarthritis. Bailey is now on a regiment of specialty food with fish oil and glucosamine and injections of Adequan, which helps the joint fluid slow the damage and maintain the cartilage she possesses.
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage within the joint is worn away. This leads to inflammation, pain, and decreased quality of life. How do pets become arthritic? Some believe genetics. Bailey comes from feral parents, so we know nothing about them. Injury or trauma can lead to the degenerative disease and obesity can contribute to worsening the condition. Reduced mobility and activity as well as reduced frequency in grooming are some of the signs of arthritis. Additionally, occasional lameness or stiffness of gait may be noticed in a cat or dog experiencing the condition.
Arthritis in dogs is more well-known and studied. Until recently, the condition in cats was not commonly diagnosed or treated. Cats tend to hide signs of pain, and therefore, like us, many kitty caregivers don’t recognize or consider this disease in their furry friends. X-rays, like those provided by our vet, helps diagnose arthritis in a cat or dog, but in particular with a cat that tolerates a great deal of pain, like Bailey.
According to the website CatsWithArthritis.com, three in ten cats suffer from arthritis and only seven percent are treated for the condition. Older cats are more prone to the disease. Some studies show as many as 90% of cats 12 and older have arthritis.
Although one may be tempted to give over the counter anti-inflammatory medication to pets, DON’T! especially to cats: aspirin and acetaminophen can be deadly. Your vet can prescribe the right type of drugs to help your kitty. If you have a dog with arthritis, before giving it any human medication, consult your vet as to what dogs can tolerate without causing major harm or death.
There are many great websites about arthritis in pets, including the following:
However, the best advice on diagnosis and treatment will come from your veterinarian. Radiographs are becoming more common as a baseline health exam for pets. Now that I’m the owner of three senior pets, I recognize the advantage of doing such work, as well as blood tests, when my animals are younger. This recent diagnosis for Bailey came as a great shock, and though my husband and I are taking positive steps to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible, I wish we’d known this was coming by having the x-rays done a few years ago. Most animals are considered seniors when they’re 10; we would have been wise to have done x-rays before that age. We have Bailey’s sister, too; we recently had radiographs done on her, and learned she, too, has arthritis, just not as badly. As a precaution, Murphy will also be fed the same prescription food and receive the injections.
Education is key to helping our furry companions; sadly, sometimes that edification comes with unexpected news.
June is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, and there is still time to find your furry feline friend!
Every summer numerous cats and kittens find themselves in shelters and rescues across the country. This is the time of year known as “kitten season” and wherever you go to adopt an animal, you are sure to find plenty of friendly felines just waiting for loving families! Some shelters are following the lead of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah and greatly reducing adoption fees; check with your local rescue, animal shelter or humane society.
And if you need a good reason to adopt a cat this month in addition to lower adoption fees, here are some reasons why adding a kitty to your clan can be a good idea:
Whether you choose an adult, a kitten, or a senior, a cat can decrease blood pressure, alleviate depression, and help combat other health issues. In fact, recent studies show that a cat’s purr lowers stress and lessens chance of heart attack in people. So, consider adopting a kitty this month – a purr-fect furry companion is waiting for you!
Call our house the ‘geriatric home for pets: Cody, our cocker spaniel, is more than 15 years old, and Mary, our springer, will be eight in February. Even our two sister cats are considered seniors these days, turning eight last August. We are all enjoying these “retirement years” in spite of some health challenges.
I know all about health challenges in seniors – especially people. My parents, in their mid-70s, have experienced some significant health issues these past few years, including a recent knee replacement for my mother. Just like with senior humans, there is challenge at times with senior pets. However, there is also great joy!
November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, and in honor of this special month, I wanted to point out some great reasons for bringing an older, more mature pet into the household:
In my professional and personal life I’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” regarding puppies and kittens, and the toutings of human parents who say “I want a puppy or kitten to grow up with my kids.” Truthfully, age makes no difference when it comes to humans and pets bonding – Cody was nearly 10 when we adopted him, and he is completely devoted to my husband and I – he even tolerates the cats! Cody has been with us for more than five years, and we don't regret bringing him into our household, even in the midst of a health challenge, just as we don't regret helping to care for our aging parents. In many ways, we saved Cody's life, and he has certainly enriched ours! When his little cocker head lays on my lap or his tan-colored body stretches on near me while on the couch and he looks at me with adoring eyes, my heart simultaneously melts and sings!
So, if adding a new pet to your home is on your ‘to-do list’ this month, consider adopting an adult or senior pet – you, too, can know the joy of hanging out with an adoring, mature four-footed friend and giving that adult pet a special, loving retirement home!
It’s often their eyes, jade green or amber gold… Sometimes it’s their friendliness, rubbing against ankles and legs… It may even be their purring motors, soothing and loving as they snuggle into your neck. Whatever the “it” is, cats capture our attention and hearts.
Cats and humans have interacted for thousands of years. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the African wildcat became a frequent and welcome visitor to human habitation, attracted to, and preying upon, rodents that fed on stored grain. Cats also played an important part in Egyptian culture, often being mourned upon demise; cat mummies have been found in huge numbers in this part of the world. Short-haired cats arrived in Italy more than 2,000 years ago and reached England 300 years later. During the Renaissance cats appeared in paintings and literature as objects of affection, raising their status as household companions. Cats were later taken across the Atlantic Ocean to America and spread across the continent.
Although cats often survived simply on rodents during their earlier history, people today care for their cats much like dogs, providing food, shelter, vet care, and affection. Yet, cats seem to be considered more disposable than dogs, with only two percent of lost kitties being reclaimed by their owners. Each year shelters and rescues across the country take in about four million cats; more than 70 percent are euthanized, according to American Humane.
Many types of cats are brought into shelters. Some are purebred, such as Siamese or Persian, while others are typical tabbies. Some are kittens, some are adults, and others are seniors. About 25 percent of cats entering animal shelters are adopted.
No matter the age, type or sex, all cats need compassion and care. From nutrition and attention to exercise and veterinary care, our cats depend on us to ensure their health and happiness.
Caring for cats can be easier than caring for dogs. Fido, for example, needs his daily walk; cats are content with a catnip mouse or scrunchy ball to bat around. Litterboxes serve as lawns, and dry food can be left out for kitty to nibble on throughout the day. However, vet care is just as important as it is for dogs, from vaccinations against diseases like rabies to spaying and neutering to prevent additions to the pet overpopulation problem.
For more information on various cat care topics, visit the ASPCA website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month – many older cats find themselves in shelters and rescues because they are lost or because their family can no longer care for them. Consider giving an older cat a home this month and help alleviate the pressure on our rescues and shelters.
There are many benefits to adopting an older cat, including:
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.